Week 4 NFL Recap: Interceptions Galore

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After a particularly rough start to the NFL season, I came into week 4 on high alert. I had excuses ready to go in case my picks tanked for the fourth straight week. And as Vernon Davis caught a 3rd quarter touchdown to put the 49ers-Rams game out of reach on Thursday night, I harped on one semi-legitimate reason for my awful picks: the timing of making those picks.

Since the NFL insists on a game every Thursday, that means Pick ‘Em leagues and Suicide Pools for all the games lock up on Thursday evening, more than 60 hours before the rest of that week’s games kick off. And of course I could hold off on posting a column with all my picks until Friday or Saturday, but there’s something to be said about wanting people to actually read my columns. A Saturday NFL picks post may not be seen by anyone until Monday, when it’s too late for my readers to capitalize on my football genius.

So we’re stuck with Thursday, and that means we made picks this week without the following information being known or completely cleared up:

  • Vernon Davis didn’t know if he was playing until game time. He played and scored a touchdown.
  • I based my Redskins pick on the fact that Matt Flynn would be the Oakland starting QB. Then on Friday news came out that Terrelle Pryor had been medically cleared and could start on Sunday. Luckily on Saturday it was announced he still wouldn’t be playing.
  • As of Friday morning, there were whispers that Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola were going to play in the Sunday night game. By Saturday morning this situation returned to status quo, no Gronk, no Amendola.
  • Andre Johnson’s status was up in the air until Saturday, when the team announced he’d be playing against Seattle.
  • On Friday/Saturday it was learned that Cincinnati would be missing several key players in the secondary, Buffalo’s top four defensive backs would be out, and Seattle was likely to play without three starters on the offensive line.

All of those are impactful enough to potentially change our minds about a game, and yet the NFL schedule forces us to pick sides before having all the facts.

If it had been another bad week for me, you’d be stuck reading 4,500 more words on this topic. But as it turns out, Sunday was an extremely successful day. You’ll see how successful at the end of this article.

And it wasn’t just me. Out of the 21 people who are in my Pick ‘Em league, it looks like 19 of them will break the .500 mark against the spread across the 15 games this week. As a comparison, in the three previous weeks combined, only 19 out of 65 sets of picks cracked .500.

So I’m guessing almost everyone’s happy today, unless you’re a Giants, Steelers or Bucs fan.

Let’s recap this amazing and unlikely-to-be-repeated week:

  • I heard on Friday that the NFL is making plans to expand the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams. That would mean one extra team per conference. For the NFL, the interest is in bringing in more money. For the teams, the interest is in creating an extra spot for those instances when a 10 or 11-win team doesn’t make the playoffs. I went ahead and reviewed the past 10 years of standings and found that of the 20 additional teams that would have made the playoffs if this new format had been in place back then, 14 of them would have been 9-7 or worse. Only six of them would have fallen into that 10-win or better category. For me, 9-7 is essentially the same as 8-8. We don’t need more mediocre teams in the playoffs. I think it’s perfect how it is. No need to mess with a perfect system.
  • By the way, the teams that would have benefited the most over the past 10 years if the 14-team format had been in place? Chicago, Minnesota and Pittsburgh. Each would have made the playoffs two additional times.
  • I had never been more confident in an 0-3 team as I was in Pittsburgh beating the Vikings on Sunday. It was the perfect setup for them: another 0-3 team, not really a road game for Pitt since it was in London, playing against a terrible defense, facing a backup QB in Matt Cassel who was making his first start of the season, getting your RB1 in the lineup for the first time all year…And of course the Steelers were down 10-0 faster than I could write the word “FUCK”.
  • I’m done backing the Steelers, which I’ve done three out of the four weeks. They’re just a hapless bunch right now. And some of it is that same old problem they haven’t been able to fix in several years, the offensive line. Ben Roethlisberger took five sacks, three of which came on a single drive in the 2nd quarter. The defense is giving up huge plays consistently. And they don’t seem to have a real red zone target on offense. Bad, bad, bad.
  • Speaking of Matt Cassel and QBs who don’t play often, what happened to the days where rookie QBs or non-starter QBs who are thrust into the lineup are expected to struggle? I thought quarterback was the toughest position to play in sports. And I also thought that defenses love facing a new QB because they know they can make life miserable for that guy. But all of the sudden on Sunday we had some pretty decent days for guys who just recently cracked the starting lineup. Cassel went 16-for-25, 248 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs and a 123.4 Passer Rating while getting the win against Dick LeBeau’s famous defense. Brian Hoyer went 25-for-38, 269 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs and a 103.9 passer rating in his win over Cincinnati and their legit defense. Matt Flynn went 21-for-32, 227 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and an 83.7 Passer Rating in Oakland’s loss to Washington. And even the rookie making his first start, Mike Glennon, completed more than 50% of his passes, something that Josh Freeman hadn’t achieved in three starts this year.
  • Sure, none of those guys put up Peyton numbers, but they were all competent. Either QBs are coming into the NFL more prepared, the rule changes that have been designed to help offenses are making rookies/bad QBs look decent, or this is just random luck that so many guys can step in and not look overmatched. Combine it with the rookie QBs who took the league by storm last year, and I’m no longer automatically doing backflips when a new quarterback is on the schedule against my team.
  • Those four QBs I just mentioned didn’t even cumulatively throw as many interceptions as Super Bowl-winning QB Joe Flacco did yesterday. He had five. Remember from my opening that Buffalo played against the Ravens without its top four secondary players. How the hell does one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league complete only 25 of 50 passes and throw five picks against an entire team of backups? This game was one of my few misses this week, but I feel like it was totally justified to say “Oh Flacco against the Bills’ scout team defense, I’m going with Baltimore.” With the Ravens going to Miami in week 5 and then hosting Green Bay in week 6, they better fix their offense quickly or else they could be looking at a 2-4 record.
  • And a 2-4 record after 6 weeks in the AFC North could have the Ravens looking up at…THE CLEVELAND BROWNS! That’s right, in a week that saw me dominate my picks, win my Pick ‘Em league, move on in the Suicide Pool, win October rent money and finally have a good fantasy showing, I got the added bonus of my longshot AFC playoff sleeper moving back to 2-2 (and a tie for the division lead) after they dominated the Bengals. I guess I forgot to mention in my preseason predictions that I was totally expecting the Browns to trade Trent Richardson and go with Hoyer over Brandon Weeden. I knew that’s what it would take to get this team moving in the right direction.
  • The Browns are no longer the team you hope the Red Zone Channel avoids or the team whose opponent you automatically pick for your Suicide Pool. As a matter of fact, the Browns’ back-to-back wins have eliminated 20% of the Suicide Pool I’m in. And next they host Buffalo on Thursday, and then Detroit 10 days later. It’s not inconceivable to think Cleveland will be 4-2 after their next two games.
  • Chicago fans should feel rightfully nervous about the Bears. In 2012 they came out of the gate strong, losing only once in their first four games (a divisional road game against Green Bay). They ultimately started the year 7-1 before losing five games in a stretch that saw them play six consecutive games against eventual playoff teams. This year they’ve only lost once in their first four games, also to a divisional opponent on the road. And like last year at this time, they have a couple easy games coming up before they face likely playoff teams in five of their final nine games. But rest assured, Chicago fans, the second half schedule in 2013 is nothing like the gauntlet that the Bears faced in 2012. If they stay healthy, I don’t think you have to worry about repeating last year’s 10-win, no-playoff disappointment.
  • And if Chicago’s WR2 Alshon Jeffrey is available in any of your fantasy leagues, I’d pick him up. He’s owned in 83% of ESPN leagues so he must be out there for some of you. He caught 5 balls on 11 targets for 107 yards and a TD on Sunday, and he also had 1 rushing attempt for 27 yards.
  • My prediction for the hot waiver wire pickup this week who won’t help going forward as much as you think he will: Danny Woodhead. Nice game yesterday with 86 total yards and 2 TDs. But the highlights you saw were pretty much everything he contributed.
  • If it seemed like you were seeing a QB lowlight reel during the entire six hours you were watching the Red Zone Channel yesterday, it’s because you kind of were. It wasn’t just Joe Flacco’s 26 interceptions in Buffalo. There were 31 interceptions thrown during the 12 morning and afternoon games on Sunday, a rate of about 2.6 interceptions per game. That’s almost an entire interception per game higher than week 2 and week 3’s rates. So it wasn’t just your eyes playing a terrible trick on you.
  • Sticking with our offensive ineptitude theme for a minute, here’s an incomplete list of teams I saw on Sunday who inspire no confidence when it comes to putting a consistently solid offensive performance together: Kansas City, the Giants, Seattle, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, the Jets, Philadelphia and Oakland. That’s 13 teams out of the 26 that played yesterday.
  • We may not have had a season-ending injury to a top-10 fantasy pick yet, but I think we can go ahead and say C.J. Spiller is the biggest disappointment so far this year. The guy is murdering teams who picked him top 5 overall and figured they had a 2,000 yards from scrimmage guy on their roster. Through four weeks (which is about one-third of the fantasy regular season), Spiller has 19 TOTAL fantasy points. By comparison, his teammate and presumed backup Fred Jackson, who all the experts said to stay away from when drafting, has 43 total fantasy points. Ray Rice and his 14 total fantasy points is probably right up there with Spiller in the team-killing category.
  • I realize not everyone can plop down on a couch at the start of Sunday’s football games and not move for the next 10 hours like I can. So if you have to choose just a small window of free time on your Sunday to catch a little football, you’ll always want to go with 12:45-1:30 Pacific Time (3:45-4:30 Eastern). This is the 45-minute period where all hell breaks loose each week.
  • During that time period on Sunday, we saw Mike Glennon throw a terrible pick deep in his own zone to turn a 10-3 Tampa lead into a 10-10 tie that ultimately saw Arizona win 13-10. We saw Roethlisberger nearly rally his team from 17 down only to get stripsacked with 10 seconds left on the 10-yard line while having a shot to tie the game. We saw Matt Schaub throw a pick that was more inexcusable than Glennon’s which Richard Sherman was able to return for a touchdown to tie the game for Seattle. The Seahawks would win by three in overtime. We even saw Flacco make a late game push by nearly overcoming a nine-point 4th quarter deficit before finally succumbing to his fifth interception of the day (and I almost forgot to mention that the Ravens would have gotten one more chance after that if Terrell Suggs hadn’t ripped off the helmet of EJ Manuel with 45 seconds left, turning a 4th down where Buffalo would have had to punt into a first down where they could kneel and take the clock down to 0:00)
  • After watching interception after interception on Sunday, I started wondering if there are any other professions where that volume of mistakes would be acceptable. What if a hospital full of doctors each just happened to have a bad day all at the same time. It would probably raise some eyebrows if like 75 patients at one hospital all died on the same day, right? But nonstop interceptions are apparently expected and accepted in the NFL.
  • The team I feel the worst for today? Not Pittsburgh, not Tampa Bay, not one of those terrible teams. I feel the worst for Tennessee. They’re 3-1 after beating up on the Jets yesterday, but rumor has it Jake Locker is out for 4-8 weeks. One year ago I never could have imagined the Titans’ good fortunes being tied to Locker, but he had been playing some solid football, and even worse, his backup is Ryan Fitzpatrick. It wasn’t evident yesterday because the Titans were already up by 18 when Fitzy took over for Locker, but this is a big drop off at QB. The book is out on Fitzy: He will most likely lead Tennessee to a stunning win over Kansas City next week. He’ll have something like 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, but no one will care about the INTs because, hey, they just beat the 4-0 Chiefs. But then the following two weeks (@Seattle and vs San Francisco) he’ll have something like 0 touchdowns, 9 interceptions and 2 fumbles lost (and they’ll be ridiculous fumbles too, like he’ll go to throw and the ball will just slip out of his hand). And Tennessee fans will be calling for Rusty Smith (their 3rd QB/practice squad QB).
  • If Locker is out for as long as they say, I fear the Titans’ surprising run to relevance is doomed.
  • I’m extra upset about Locker’s injury because just last week I wrote that Tennessee might turn into that team where you bet on them every week and win almost every time. I could have seen Vegas refusing to give them respect all year even as they fight their way to a 10-win season. But it’s all for not now.
  • The type of game the Patriots won last night would have been a loss for them in 2012. The ending felt a lot like their loss in Seattle last year. The difference this year is the defense and the balance in general. I’m 90% confident in Tom Brady and the offense to be able to run a clock-killing drive when needed, and I’m 70% confident in the defense to come up big with a key defensive stop when needed. That was the type of win we haven’t seen out of them in a very long time. And as many people pointed out on Twitter yesterday, this is starting to feel like the 2001-2005 team all over again. They’re just plugging away without drawing a lot of attention while the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history lays siege to all the passing records over in Denver. And it wouldn’t be a Patriots season without a season-ending injury to one of the seven most important players on the team (Vince Wilfork this time). I know it’s going to be tough for New England fans to give the Pats their full attention while the Red Sox are chasing a World Series, but this team might just emerge from October with a 7-1 record.
  • After racing out to an 11-3 record against the NFC through three weeks, the AFC went 4-3 yesterday in interconference games. There’s one more to be played as the Dolphins take on the Saints tonight, but no significant change from my thoughts last week that the AFC is right on par with the NFC this year.
  • This week’s Vitriol Award obviously goes to the Pittsburgh Steelers! Congrats, Pittsburgh, on being the only two-time winner of this prestigious award. It must feel great to be the team I scream at and throw things because of during two of the first four weeks of the season. And it’s a total team effort…offensive turnovers, penalties, a terrible O-line, the defense giving up long plays to Matt Cassel…I think this is rock bottom for them.

That’s all I got for the week 4 recap. Looking forward to Dolphins-Saints tonight, and if my 9-4-1 record against the spread so far this week is any indication, Miami covers the 7-points. Last chance to benefit from my bounceback week.

Week 5 picks coming on Thursday. Stay tuned.

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Fall TV Preview: TV Feels So Insignificant In The post-Breaking Bad World

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It seems ridiculous this morning to be previewing new TV shows after saying goodbye to one of the best shows of all time just about 12 hours ago (Breaking Bad obviously). It’s like if a widower set up a Match.com profile while standing in the receiving line at his late wife’s wake. Too soon.

But of course the shows must go on. After a brain-frying 12 hours of TV on Sunday, it’s a good thing we only need to review one show for tonight. It’s a brand new show that I’m guessing some people are going to love and some are going to hate. No in between.

Here it is.

We Are Men

When & Where: 8:30pm on CBS

What: A comedy about a guy who gets left at the altar and the fallout from that disastrous moment. For some reason he has to move into a short-term apartment rental complex where many other recently-single men live. And obviously they bond. Most likely they make a lot of raunchy man jokes. And almost definitely they try to act like college frat boys.

Who: Kal Penn (of Harold & Kumar fame), Jerry O’Connell (of stealing John Stamos’ wife fame) and Tony Shaloub (of Monk fame) are all featured actors on the show.

Ross’s Take: This whole thing makes me sad because the opening 30 seconds of the trailer looks exactly like the opening of the most recently great-TV-show-to-be-cancelled, Happy Endings. But aside from that, I get the sense this show will have some hilarious moments and some awfully cliche and uninspiring moments. I could totally imagine a scenario where watching this show makes you feel like you’re watching a group of old sleazy men desperately trying to hit on good looking women at a bar. My guess is that the unfunny stuff will dominate the funny stuff, which means I’m only giving this show a 2 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: The setup in the beginning looks largely unoriginal, but it looks OK and I like a lot of the actors. I give it a 3 out of 5.

 

After the past two weeks, we have a very light schedule of premiering shows this week, and then no blogworthy TV premieres until the new year when shows like Game of Thrones return. Hope you’re enjoying some of the new Fall shows.

Week 4 NFL Picks Against The Spread

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And just like that, we’ve reached the start of the bye weeks. We won’t be seeing Green Bay or Carolina in week 4. And that’s fine because those are some crappy 1-2 teams anyway. The less garbage teams we have to deal with, the better the Red Zone Channel will be.

Speaking of bye weeks, is it completely unheard of for an analyst/blogger to take a bye week in order to lick his wounds, recuperate from a brutal opening three games and get mentally prepared for the long haul of the rest of the season? Because if things don’t pick up for me quickly, I might just take a week off and spend my Sunday picking out a new couch with the girlfriend.

I was 6-9-1 against the spread last week, and I’m now 15-30-3 on the year. Writing that sentence brings a tear to my eye.

As for the NFL landscape after three weeks, we’ve got seven undefeated teams and six unvictorious teams. And the other 19 teams fall somewhere in the middle.

I think we’ll still have five undefeated teams after this week, but we could have as many as six still (someone has to lose the Miami-New Orleans Monday night game).

And I think two of those winless teams will get on the board finally, meaning we’ll still have four 0-fer teams. So it’s going to be a while before we find out who’s the last undefeated team and who’s the last “only-defeated” team.

If you’re a Washington fan and want to feel even worse about your team, there’s this: The Redskins’ opponents from the first three weeks of the season are a combined 1-5 in games not against the ‘Skins. So they’re not exactly losing to the cream of the crop.

And if you want to feel better as a Tampa Bay fan, here you go: The Bucs’ opponents from the first three weeks are a combined 5-1, so they’ve been forced to play against some of the competent teams in the league. Things could get better…

Enough of me trying to make coherent judgments based on a tiny three-week sample size. Let’s get to the week 4 picks:

San Francisco (-3.5) @ St. Louis

In the two most recent Thursday night games, the home favorite didn’t even come close to covering. There could be plenty of reasons for that, but it might just be that every Thursday game turns into a sloppy, replacement-player-looking shit show. The quick turnaround in such a brutal sport could be a realistic reason these games always seem to look so bad. And for the 49ers, this short week is even worse because their injury report is littered with important players. Patrick Willis is probably missing this game, Justin Smith is limited in practice, Aldon Smith, as you may have heard, is in rehab and gone for the foreseeable future, and maybe most importantly, Vernon Davis may not play again because of his hamstring. This team seems offensively neutered right now (I mean that they are neutered on the offensive side of the ball, not that they got neutered in a particularly offensive way), and the defense may be in rough shape for a couple weeks. The Rams are mostly healthy and they’re playing at home against a tough opponent they know they can beat based on last year. I’m taking them to only lose by a field goal. St. Louis covers, but San Francisco wins 23-20.

Pittsburgh (-1.5) @ Minnesota (but really @ London)

This game’s currently off the board because of the Minnesota QB situation, but I’m not sure replacing Christian Ponder with Matt Cassel changes much in the bettors’ eyes. This is literally an elimination game as the loser will be 0-4. And it would take a level of chaos and lucky breaks we haven’t yet seen for an 0-4 team to rattle off 11 wins in their final 12 games and make the playoffs. We might be talking about the NFC’s worst vs the AFC’s worst. You’re welcome, London!

In a game like this, it’s time to fall back on the QB position. And I’ll take Ben Roethlisberger over Ponder or Cassel every day. I think Steelers win 27-17.

Baltimore (-3.5) @ Buffalo

For those of you who read my picks last year, you’re going to notice an old standby I’m unearthing from the 2012 time capsule: trying my hardest to discredit the Ravens! This time my biggest knock on them is the offense. Did you know that if you take out defensive and special teams scores as well as garbage time points (some against Denver in week 1, a field goal against Houston with the game out of hand last week) this Ravens team has put up 44 total points on offense during the competitive portions of their three games? That’s less than 15 points per game. And that’s with the benefit of playing two home games already, one of which they got to play on 10 days rest. All I’m saying is that this team makes me nervous. And sure, I’m willing to admit that the defense, outside of that Denver game, still looks solid.

Wait a second though. If I’m about to pick the Bills to upset Baltimore, I better be damn sure that Buffalo’s pretty close to healthy…

One look at the google results of their Wednesday injury report, and nope, not even remotely healthy. The Bills’ head coach is even on record saying that other teams are picking on his secondary because they’re down to their 12th best option at cornerback (slight exaggeration only).

The Ravens will have their day when they don’t squeak by because of the other team’s inferior play or from a lucky defensive/special teams score. But just hearing the Bills admit that they can’t stop anybody in the passing game until they get healthy scares the shit out of me. Let’s go with Baltimore winning, 31-24.

Cincinnati (-5) @ Cleveland
When you see a point spread at five, it means the line setters have no idea what to make of this game…which seems appropriate because I have no idea what to make of this game. The Bengals could win by 50. The Bengals could win by a field goal. The Browns…could…win?

Looking at last week’s games doesn’t help us come to a conclusion because both teams benefited from some crazy, unrepeatable plays. The Bengals got two Aaron Rodgers picks and a Green Bay fumble at the worst possible time (or best possible time from Cincy’s point of view). Cleveland ran a fake field goal and got a touchdown out of it, recovered a Ponder fumble while Minnesota was in the red zone and then recovered an Adrian Peterson fumble, something that’s only happened to AP four other times in his past 908 carries.

So lots of flukiness went into both these teams’ wins last week, which helps us 0.00% for this week.

I’m falling back on a preseason instinct that had me thinking this AFC North division is going to play each other particularly close. So the Browns at home can keep it a one-score game. And I’ll buy into Josh Gordon’s return really stretching the field and opening up space for everyone else. The Browns move to 2-0 in the Trent Richardson-less era, winning 23-17.

Indianapolis (-9) @ Jacksonville

Without even thinking, I’m taking the Colts. All I needed to see is that Blaine Gabbert will be back under center for the Jags on Sunday. I’m out on the Gabbert era. The Colts coast to a 30-13 victory.

Seattle (-3) @ Houston

Since Seattle’s unlikely to go 16-0, we eventually have to pin a loss or two on them. And no doubt those losses will come on the road. But this isn’t a moment to get cute and pick the upset. We know Seattle’s secondary will shut down Houston’s passing attack regardless of whether Andre Johnson plays or not. So is Houston going to run all over the Seahawks and cause some timely turnovers? Doubtful. When picking Houston based purely on them being at home, remember they had to win an overtime home game against Tennessee in semi-miraculous fashion just two weeks ago. I could see the Seahawks winning big enough on Sunday that the TV media starts having the “will Seattle and Denver both go 16-0 in the regular season” debates. I’ll say Seattle wins, 30-10.

Arizona @ Tampa Bay (-2.5)

Out of all the statistical reasons to pick against the Bucs in this game, here’s the actual reason I’m doing it: I’m worried that as Larry Fitzgerald is catching his 11th pass of the day against a Tampa Bay zone defense, Darrelle Revis is going to walk over to the sideline, decapitate his head coach and defecate into the neck hole. That’s how pissed off Revis probably is that he’s not matching up against the opposition’s WR1 this year. Because stupid Greg Schicano plays a stupid version of football. And how can you back a team whose players are undermining its coach while the coach is undermining those players right back? Oh, and I’m happy for Mike Glennon especially because I predicted in the preseason blog that Josh Freeman would be the first QB benched due to ineffectiveness, but if you don’t think Glennon has a costly “rookie trying to do too much for a desperate team” moment in this game, you must not watch very much football.

Arizona gets a road win for the first time in its last 10 tries, 34-27.

Chicago @ Detroit (-3)

These two teams are pretty similar, right? Both have big-armed QBs who primarily throw to only one reliable wide receiver. Both have a fantastic running back who is usually more dangerous as a receiver than a runner. Both lost a key player from the defensive line for the year last week. And neither will be satisfied until they take the division title back from Green Bay.

Chicago might be 3-0, but Detroit’s played the better football so far this year. And for all the talk the Bears defense gets for its “ball-hawking skills” and “nose for the end zone,” they’re actually pretty pedestrian against the pass. Give me Detroit in a close one, 33-27.

NY Giants @ Kansas City (-4.5)

Things look bad for the Giants, and the worst part is I don’t hear any informed analysts or media types saying reinforcements are on the way for this team. And Kansas City looked pretty ferocious on defense last Thursday night. Oh yeah, and the Chiefs had 10 days to get ready while the Giants were busy getting embarrassed in Carolina over the weekend. I honestly expected this line to be closer to a touchdown so I’ll gladly take the Chiefs to cover and win, 28-14.

NY Jets @ Tennessee (-4)

It’s terrifying to think one of these teams will emerge on Sunday afternoon with a 3-1 record. It’s even more terrifying when you realize that both of these teams are one play away (in their week two games) from being 3-0. Could you imagine if the Titans were 4-0 by the end of this weekend? The 4-0 Jets? I shudder to think of the trash-talk that would be coming out of the New York area if that was the case.

I’m not ready to live in a world where the Jets are 3-1, Rex Ryan’s job is safe and Geno Smith is the answer at quarterback.

The Jets’ success so far seems based on a lucky break (Tampa game), the now-predictable Thursday night slopfest (narrowly losing to the Patriots in Foxboro) and a terrible road game from a rookie QB (EJ Manuel sucking it up in New Jersey last week).

I like Tennessee a lot more. They’ll win 24-17.

Dallas (-2) @ San Diego

No, Dallas, you don’t get to improve your record to 3-1. That wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the NFC East teams, who are desperately counting on a 9-7 record to take the division. I know the Cowboys can’t mathematically lock up the division by winning this game, but they might have an insurmountable two-game lead if they do. And that’s just not the way the East gets won these days. And, hey, San Diego’s frisky. And what if the middle class teams of the AFC are as good or better than the middle class of the NFC? I think San Diego wins this game, 34-30.

Washington (-3) @ Oakland

Matt Flynn hasn’t started a football game in 635 days. Seriously. It’s one of those situations where our hands are tied picking this game. You have to pick the Redskins based on the QB situation with Oakland (I guess there’s a chance Pryor starts, but since I’m posting these picks on Thursday, I gotta go with the information available. So far Pryor hasn’t practiced this week because of a concussion). And let’s not forget that the Raiders were supposed to be terrible anyway. I gotta go with a Washington win, 34-20.

(Side Note: My poor friends who are Washington fans. They are desperately hoping I start picking against their team because I’m a known jinx. Whenever I buy a jersey of a player, it’s basically a death sentence for that guy. And whenever I eagerly board a team’s bandwagon (like I did with Washington at the start of last year’s playoffs and continued to do so in the preseason this year), the thing immediately crashes into a brick wall and catches on fire, killing all of the passengers and even some innocent bystanders. If they lose to Oakland, I promise to pick against them at Dallas after their bye week, if only to try to save some friendships.)

Philadelphia @ Denver (-11)

It won’t be a close game, but it feels like a backdoor cover in the making. Denver up comfortably all game, kicks a late field goal to go up three scores, Philly marches down the field for an easy touchdown, but time’s up and they lose by 10. Denver wins 38-28.

Interestingly enough I’m picking the Broncos as my suicide pick this week even though I think Philly covers. If these two teams play 100 times in Denver, I see the Broncos winning in routine, one-score-difference fashion about 75 times; the Broncos winning in crazy blowout fashion 15 times, and the Eagles pulling off the upset 10 times. Of course that 10% scares me but no other team is as much of a sure thing this week (i.e. lots of the best teams are on the road it seems).

New England @ Atlanta (-2)

I think this game is extremely close the entire time. And if this was 2012, I’d immediately pick against the Patriots because over the past couple years they’ve been terrible in close games, especially when they have a chance to close out an opponent with a clock-killing drive. But this year they’ve already won two of those kind of games, and the defense in particular has looked good in the 4th quarter. The Falcons on the road is tough, but they have a ton of injuries that are already catching up to them. Atlanta at home over the last handful of years is stupid to bet against, but that’s what I’m here for, stupid bets. I think the Patriots win another close one, 26-23.

Miami @ New Orleans (-7)

Wow, Monday Night Football’s actually getting a great matchup. Two 3-0 teams. AFC vs NFC. Is New Orleans’ turnaround for real? Is Miami ready to be a playoff contender? I feel like the loser of this game should be forced to be the team most closely associated with Ricky Williams.

So which 3-0 start is more legit? The Dolphins have already won two road games, have outscored their opponents by 21 points, and have knocked off two of last year’s playoff teams.

The Saints have won two at home and a close one on the road, have outscored their opponents by 32, and have knocked off one 2012 playoff team.

Both teams have beaten Atlanta at home. New Orleans won 23-17, and Miami won 27-23.

Lots of statistical similarities between these teams. I definitely have not found a good reason to think the Saints will win by more than a touchdown. As a matter of fact, out of the seven undefeated teams, the Dolphins have played the toughest schedule (based on opponents’ record in their other games). Let’s take Miami to cover, but the Saints to win, 28-23.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 4 I’m taking:

  • 8 Favorites & 7 Underdogs
  • Of those 7 Underdogs, 3 of them are Home Dogs and 4 of them are Road Dogs

Enjoy week 4.

Fall TV Preview: Robin Williams vs Michael J. Fox For Thursday Night Supremecy

michael j fox robin williams

It’s finally here. The night none of us have been waiting for. The night where Robin Williams and Michael J. Fox make their glorious returns to TV (separately, not together).  And they’ll actually be direct competition to each other as both shows air at 9:00pm. Of course with Fox we’re curious and uneasy about his Parkinson’s disease and how he’ll do as a lead actor expected to carry a TV show. And with Williams, it’s more of a horrific freeway accident that you can’t take your eyes off. How over the top will he be? How quickly can we change the channel?

Lucky for you, if you’re not interested in checking out their new shows, there are still a couple solid returning shows tonight. So you’ve got options.

Let’s see what those options are for Thursday, September 26th:

Returning Shows

Parks & Recreation

When & Where: 8:00pm on NBC

What: A workplace comedy that revolves around the government employees of a small-town parks department. Their leader is a hopelessly optimistic public servant who idolizes Hilary Clinton just a tad too much.

Who: Amy Poehler stars as Leslie Knope but the cast around her is just as famous: Rob Lowe, Adam Scott, Aziz Ansari, Rashida Jones, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt. It’s a gold mine of awesome comedic actors.

Ross’s Take: Yesterday I threw around the gold standard tag when talking about Modern Family, but now I feel like I’ve cheated on Parks & Rec. I can’t decide between the two of them, honestly. Maybe I’ll just call both of them the gold standard and hope they don’t find out about each other? When it’s all said & done years from now, this show might be more memorable than The Office (a show it’s often compared to).

Julie’s Take: 4 out of 5 because I can’t be giving out so many 5’s, and it’s not better than Modern Family…but then I did give Dads 4 out of 5…hmm….4.75 for Parks & Recreation.

 

The Big Bang Theory

When & Where: 8:00pm on CBS

What: A sitcom about a group of socially awkward, nerdy scientist friends who work and hang out together.

Who: Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki play the main characters. Kaley Cuoco plays their normal, social, not nerdy neighbor.

Ross’s Take: After resisting this show for years without ever watching it, I finally gave it a chance last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. For me the humor typically comes from the main character, Sheldon. He plays the socially inept, OCD-ish, asperger-y personality perfectly and just to listen to him deal with certain situations and people is amazing. I’m giving it a 3.5 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: This is a 5 out of 5 for Sheldon, the main character. But 4.5 for the rest of the show in general.

 

New Shows

The Michael J. Fox Show

When & Where: 9:00pm on NBC

What: Based on the title and the fact that it’s loosely based on Michal J. Fox’s actual life, you can probably guess what it’s about. But basically “Mike Henry,” who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease five years ago, decides to get back to work, where he used to be a news anchor.

Who: Michael J. Fox, Betsy Brandt (Marie from Breaking Bad)

Ross’s Take: The natural reaction to finding out this show exists is to wonder if Michael J. Fox is in good enough condition to be the lead on a weekly TV show. Time will tell, I guess. More important to me is his track record. When has he ever done a bad show or movie? He’s been great in everything he’s ever been in, I’m pretty sure. So I’m giving this show the benefit of the doubt for now, but I’m treading lightly. It’s a 3 out of 5 for me.

Julie’s Take: I give it a 2.5 out of 5. I didn’t realize it was based on his real life so that makes me more interested.

 

The Crazy Ones

When & Where: 9:00pm on CBS

What: A comedy about a father-daughter ad agency team where the father is the charming, off-the-walls, old-school business type, and the daughter is the tightly wound, overly worried and serious type.

Who: Robin Williams is the father, Sarah Michelle Gellar is the daughter.

Ross’s Take: Part of me thinks this show won’t work because of Robin Williams, but part of me thinks it wouldn’t work without him. He actually made me laugh a few times while watching the trailer, like the part where they make up the jingle on the spot at the restaurant. But his personality is just so obnoxiously big I worry it’ll be a typical “roll your eyes at Robin Williams’ stupid voices and impressions” situation. I can’t ignore the legitimately funny moments in the preview, much funnier than some of the other shows we’ve talked about in this space. I give it a 2 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: I give it a 2 out of 5 because I like Robin Williams but never really liked “Michelle Gellar”, but I’ll watch it.

 

Sunday Bonus

Homeland returns! But here’s the thing. I’ve only watched season one because season two just got released on Netflix within the last two weeks and I haven’t gotten the discs yet (god forbid they put it on Netflix Instant). I expect to DVR the new episodes because I finally have Showtime, but first I’ll binge watch season two as soon as possible. This show will probably take over Breaking Bad’s place in terms of drama TV show that I get way too into. If season two and beyond is as good as season one, I’m all in on it.

We Need To Talk About Peeing In Pools

ross and mannekin pis

manneken-pis

I’ve been blogging for over 10 years, and I’ve never gotten the natural opening to discuss urinating in pools.

Until now.

Thanks to this possibly-true-but-unlikely-to-be-confirmed report that some of the Los Angeles Dodgers players peed into the Arizona Diamondbacks’ pool last week when they were celebrating their division-clinching win, I now have a newsworthy event to use as a segue into peeing in the pool etiquette.

I have several important thoughts on this taboo subject so let’s jump right into the deep end:

  1. It’s called “peeing in the pool” not “peeing into the pool.” This implies that discreetly peeing while you are submerged (at least up to your waist) in a pool is generally acceptable, but peeing into the pool while standing over it like you’re the Mannekin Pis (the statue from the photo above) is extremely uncool, and pretty much grounds for expulsion from civilization.
  2. Once again focusing on the wording, people always say “the pool.” Not “the hot tub”, not “the bath tub”, and certainly not “the canoe filled with river water.” A pool is just big enough to relieve yourself while giving others plenty of space. A hot tub is so small that you’re usually touching other people due to a lack of space. Pissing in something that size with other people around is a major no-no. Peeing in a hot tub is even more ludicrous when you consider that 99% of the time there’s a fucking huge pool five feet away from the hot tub. So if you still choose the intimate hot tub setting over the giant pool, you’re just an asshole.
  3. If you are going to pee in the pool (or river, lake or ocean), it’s common courtesy to alert people standing close by. Let’s call it a seven-foot radius. If anyone is within that piss circle of proximity, you have to give them the heads up. Many years ago my brothers and I agreed to sing a certain song out loud any time we were about to pee in a body of water. It’s just the right thing to do.
  4. What about peeing in the shower? Well as you could guess, for me it’s no problem. 100% acceptable. And if you’re someone who’s on the fence about the acceptability of peeing in a pool, you have to be pro shower peeing. It immediately goes down the drain and hundreds of gallons of water wash over the parts of the tub that were hit with urine. The next person to shower isn’t forced to swim around in it. There’s no legitimate counterargument to my point here. I can’t believe I even feel the need to justify this, but I’ve actually had someone criticize me after I admitted to doing the shower tinkle.
  5. Pushing out a #2 in a body of water is so disgusting it’s not even worth talking about. Let’s just move on (though my brothers and I do have an addition to our song in case this situation ever comes up).
  6. Since I’m sure I’ll get ridiculed by some people for this post, let me clarify that I don’t go into a situation thinking “Yes! A pool! I can’t wait to piss in that thing.” I typically use the bathroom before jumping into a pool if I have to go, and I don’t push anything out that doesn’t want to naturally come out just because I’m waist deep in water. But sometimes you just gotta go, and no one will convince me that the pool is a bad place to let it happen.
  7. Someone find me documented proof that people have gotten ill from swimming in a pee-filled pool and I will totally overhaul my philosophy on this topic. Until then, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

So after all that, is it wrong for the Dodgers players to piss in the Diamondbacks’ pool? I say no, as long as they abide by the rules listed above. They better not have stood over the pool and peed into it. The pool better have been large enough to allow for the seven-foot piss radius.

There are NFL players on record saying they’ve peed their pants during games because there was no other option. Athletes are drinking a ton of liquid throughout the course of a game, and since the Dodgers were celebrating in the clubhouse before jumping in the pool, they were likely crushing beers left and right. I’d be needing to piss literally every 25 seconds. Sometimes I have to go that frequently just after drinking a large Diet Coke.

So in the Dodgers’ situation, not only is it acceptable, it’s probably expected.

And, hey, even Olympic swimmers admit to peeing in the pool just for the hell of it.

But if it comes out that the Dodgers were peeing into and around the pool from an elevated height, that’s grounds for someone from Arizona going to Dodger Stadium and burning it to the ground.

If anyone has pee-related questions or scenarios, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to guide you in the right direction.

Fall TV Preview: The Comedy Gold Standard Returns

Little-Giants

Last Wednesday I gave you Survivor for your homework. Hopefully you’re all excited to watch Colton turn into the most hated person in America (again) every Wednesday for the next four months.

This Wednesday brings another light assignment as I’m only requiring you to watch one show, and it happens to be the best comedy on TV. If you want extra credit, you can give the brand new show a whirl, but I don’t think it’s worth your time.

Let’s discuss the two shows worth your consideration for Wednesday, September 25th:

Returning Show

Modern Family

When & Where: 9:00pm on ABC

What: I can’t imagine there’s someone reading this who hasn’t heard of Modern Family. But fine, here it goes: It’s a family comedy based on three intertwined families that stem from a father and his two kids (and their families). There’s the traditional family (husband, wife, three kids), the gay parents and their adopted Vietnamese child, and the patriarch of the whole group with his Colombian trophy wife and her teenage son.

Who: Ed O’Neill, Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, Ty Burrell, everyone, really.

Ross’s Take: The gold standard of the current TV comedy is going strong heading into its fifth season. Modern Family will be on top for a while because it has incredible characters, the best writing, and constantly evolving and ripe-for-the-picking family situations based on the kids growing up, the parents getting new jobs, or childlike adult Phil Dunphy misreading a situation so bad that he finds himself watching a football game with his shirt off in the company of a gay man who thinks Phil wants to sleep with him. This is basically the one comedy that I have to watch the night it airs, and it’s getting a 4.5 out of 5 from me (The “5” designation is exclusively saved for shows like The Wire, Breaking Bad and the heyday of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia).

Julie’s Take: I mean, what’s to say…10 out of 5 (shaking her head at me like I’m an idiot for asking).

New Show

Back In The Game

When & Where: 8:30pm on ABC

What: Little Giants as a baseball-centric TV show. Seriously, the synopsis on Wikipedia reads like a TV adaptation for that 1994 Rick Moranis-Ed O’Neill football movie. A bunch of kids are rejected by the mean coach from playing on the team, so the dorky nobody of a parent organizes her own team with all the rejected kids…

Who: Maggie Lawson is mother who coaches the losers and James Caan is her overbearing, used-to-be-an-athlete father.

Ross’s Take: I don’t think I’m biting on this one. I’m pretty sure I nailed the premise with my Little Giants comparison, which means the laughs are going to be predictable (this ragtag bunch of dorky kids are trying to play a sport!!). Even the relationship between the mom and her dad seems cliche and not something that’s going to interest me. I’m giving it a 1.5 out of 5 and only DVR’ing it because of my roommate’s enthusiasm over it (see below).

Julie’s Take: It’s a nice mix of The Sandlot and My Girl…I give it a 4 out of 5. It looks heartfelt!

That’s all for today. Stay tuned for Thursday’s lineup where we’ll be welcoming back a couple actors who haven’t starred in a TV show in a loooong time (and for good reason).

Fall TV Preview: Tuesday Nights Just Got Busy

goldbergs

One week ago we previewed four Tuesday night shows , two returning and two brand new. They were all comedies, and none of them are really the type where you’d need to start from the very first episode if you want to get into them. So in case you didn’t check out the premieres of those shows last week, here’s how I’d prioritize them if I were you:

  1. The Mindy Project
  2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  3. New Girl
  4. Dads – But only if there’s a major glitch with your cable or satellite provider that forces you to keep the TV on FOX.

And tonight, four more shows start up that you may want to check out. They’re all brand new, and they’re all on ABC. So now you’re potentially juggling eight shows on Tuesday. Except some of these will obviously fall out of favor quickly. I can tell you that in my home Dads is probably getting bumped from the DVR-recording schedule after tonight, and there’s at least one show in these four we’re about to preview that won’t make the cut.

Six is much more manageable than eight!

Here are the four new ABC shows that are worth a look tonight:

The Goldbergs

When & Where: 9:00pm on ABC

What: Remember when someone tried to capitalize on the That ‘70s Show popularity and created That ‘80s Show? I barely remember either, but it actually did happen. Well The Goldbergs is basically a family-centric version of that short-lived spinoff. It’s semi-autobiographical as the creator actually grew up in the 80s and videotaped his family doing weird stuff. And he’s bringing all the dynamics of his real family to this show. So think of it as a family sitcom set in the 80s with the exact type of characters you’d expect roaming around the 1980s.

Who: Jeff Garlin plays the father, Murray Goldberg. And Wendy McLendon-Covey plays the mother, Beverly Goldberg.

Ross’s Take: It’s got a lot of potential. I’m basing that mostly on the trailer, which is always risky to do because they might have used up all their good jokes in that four-minute preview. Just the fact that it’s a non-CBS sitcom makes it worth a try in my opinion. If you grew up in the 80s, you gotta check this out. There’s a good chance we’ll be able to do a lot of laughing at the parents in this show who remind us way too much of our own parents from that time period. And if you raised kids in the 80s, you probably wanted to laugh a lot at the insanity of childhood and adolescence, but you couldn’t laugh in your own kids’ faces back then. So now’s your chance to tune in and remember what was so funny about being a parent in that decade. What do you have to lose? 30 minutes of your precious lives? I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5 and hopefully I’m being a little conservative.

Julie’s Take: Ooh, I like it! It’s like a revamped Wonder Years. I’m giving it a 5 out of 5.

Trophy Wife

When & Where: 9:30pm on ABC

What: A family comedy about a woman who marries a twice-divorced man and has to co-exist with his two ex-wives and the handful of kids he produced in those previous relationships.

Who: Bradley Whitford plays the husband, Malin Akerman plays the new wife.

Ross’s Take: It feels a bit too ridiculous and forced. And unrealistic. This woman marries a guy and immediately has to be in charge of all his kids and their relationships with their moms, who undoubtedly hate her for being the young, hot wife. I don’t think we’re even bothering to watch the first episode. I give it a 0.5 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: I want to give it a 0 out of 5, but I’ll start it off with a 1 out of 5.

(I can tell you that only other contribution she made when we finished watching the preview was shaking her head and making that face people make when they dislike the food they just tried. Probably not good for this show’s chances.)

Lucky 7

When & Where: 10:00pm on ABC

What: A drama about seven gas station employees in Queens, New York, who split a lottery ticket every week. And when they finally win the jackpot, some of their wildest dreams come true…but the money also creates plenty of problems.

Who: Nobody any of us have ever heard of. It’s an ensemble cast, and I can’t make out anyone in the cast who I know from previous work. Lots of unknowns.

Ross’s Take: As a successful TV and movie writer, there’s been several times in the past few years when a new show or film comes out that looks similar to an idea I have written down on a scrap of paper in a folder somewhere on my desk. This is one of those times. So of course I’m intrigued. My movie idea was about a group of friends who win the lottery together and then problems arise as the group dynamic changes and some personalities change. I bet this show is better than anything I could have created so I’m hoping for big things. I’ll go with a 3.5 out of 5, which seems to be my max rating on a show I haven’t seen yet.

Julie’s Take: I’m giving it a 3 out of 5 because I’m intrigued. But I am worried it’s gonna go dark and sad eventually.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

When & Where: 8:00pm on ABC

What: The name of the show pretty much tells you what you need to know. It’s a comic book/superhero show that looks like a grander scale version of the TV show Heroes. People with super powers find each other and team up to defeat the bad guys.

Who: Legendary sci-fi/superhero creator/writer/director Joss Whedon created this show and wrote the pilot. It’ll be interesting to see what the show looks like past the pilot when he’s not the one writing it anymore.

Ross’s Take: A superhero show that seems to have a big enough budget to have great special effects & action scenes and created by a guy who’s already had a ton of success with The Avengers movie. Sign me up. This could be the perfect post-Breaking Bad hour-long TV show. It probably won’t require a significant emotional investment, but will be a very pleasing visual experience. Mindless viewing makes it sound bad, but it could be good watching when you’re checked out mentally after a long day of work.

I’ll pre-rank it a 3.5 out of 5, obviously.

Julie’s Take: I didn’t even give Julie an opportunity to review this show because I’m certain she’s not into comic book content. I don’t think this would keep her attention for longer than 10 seconds.

If I’m guessing ahead of time how I’ll ultimately rank these eight Tuesday night shows once I’ve seen them all, it goes like this:

  1. The Mindy Project
  2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  3. The Goldbergs 
  4. Lucky 7
  5. New Girl
  6. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  7. Dads
  8. Trophy Wife

Do what you want with that info. We’ll be back tomorrow with just one brand new show and one returning show.

NFL Week 3 Recap: The AFC Dominates

Mike McCarthy

You know the people who are constantly campaigning for Americans to spend less time watching TV? They’re the researchers who are putting out study after study saying even a few hours of TV-viewing each day is killing us. Or they’re the parents of your friends growing up who didn’t even have a TV in the house…or if they did have a TV, they most certainly did NOT have cable. And that’s because TV is bad for you. Sitting on the couch for hours at a time will lead to certain death.

Can you imagine how those people would react to a day like yesterday? If you’re like me, you plopped yourself down in front of the TV at 9:55am Pacific Time, watched football for six-and-a-half hours (the Red Zone Channel on the main TV and an additional game on the laptop), and only got up to use the bathroom or grab a fresh beer. You took a 45-minute break from 4:30-5:15, and then sat down for the three hours of night time football. But then, when the dust had settled on another fantastic day in the NFL, you toggled over to the DVR queue and fired up Breaking Bad.

By my count that’s just shy of 11 hours of television watching. According to those TV studies, I should have died around hour nine.

And I’m guessing I wasn’t alone. In some ways it’ll be a good thing when Breaking Bad ends next week because we’ll get to claim a little bit of our Sundays back, but it was a pretty amazing run while it lasted. The opening four weeks of the 2013 football season is the only time in my life when the football itself might not have been the most exciting event happening on those Sundays.

For those New England and Atlanta fans that haven’t realized it yet, the Breaking Bad finale airs while the Patriots and Falcons play in the Sunday Night Football game this weekend. I’m choosing to watch the game live and then follow it up with the finale, but I doubt my heart will be into the game very much.

Speaking of that interconference matchup between the 3-0 Patriots and 1-2 Falcons, now seems like as good of a time as any to discuss the relationship between the AFC and NFC.

Going into the season you couldn’t have paid an analyst enough money to say that the AFC is superior to the NFC. It was common knowledge that the best of the NFC (Seattle, San Francisco, Green Bay) was well ahead of the best of the AFC (Denver, New England, Baltimore). AND it was also clear that the NFC was deeper, with intriguing-yet-not-elite teams like Chicago, Washington, the Giants, Detroit and others making up a strong middle class. What did the AFC have? Teams that looked decent but no doubt would be on the outside of the playoff picture if they played in the NFC. I’m talking about Cincinnati, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Miami…

I know it’s only been three weeks, but I found the following stats very interesting:

  • Last year’s NFC playoff teams are now a combined 6-12 on the year (with the top three seeds—Atlanta, San Francisco and Green Bay—each struggling at 1-2).
  • Last year’s AFC playoff teams are a combined 14-4 (assuming Denver handles Oakland on Monday night).
  • And before you fall back on the old faithful line of “Yeah but that’s because the NFC is beating each other up while the best of the AFC gets to feast on the Jaguars and Raiders,” I’ve got news for you: The AFC is now 11-3 against the NFC this year.
  • Signature wins this week include Cincinnati over Green Bay, Indianapolis demolishing San Francisco, Kansas City handling Philadelphia on Thursday, Miami over Atlanta, and of course Cleveland stunning Minnesota. Some teams thought to be very middle of the road in the AFC have taken it to what we thought would be the class of the NFC.
  • I wish my analysis was advanced enough to tell you why this is happening.
  • In a quarterback-driven league, you might think the conference with the QB advantage would be the dominant one, but as it turns out, 7 of the 10 highest ranked quarterbacks by Passer Rating are in the NFC.
  • NFC teams also comprise 7 of the top 10 spots in offensive yards per game.
  • Maybe the deciding factor is defense, as 8 of the top 10 spots in defensive yards allowed are occupied by AFC teams.

I really have no clue why the AFC suddenly looks better, and it could just be a three-week anomaly. We’ll know a lot more after week 4 as there are eight interconference games, many of them including the conferences’ best teams. Consider the NFC officially on notice.

As will be the case six more times out of the 14 remaining regular season weekends, when the Patriots are on at 10am on Sundays like they were this week, it severely cuts down on the amount of attention I can give the other eight games taking place at that time. The Patriots take priority on the real TV while the Red Zone Channel gets second billing on the laptop. Expect less of a game-by-game recap when this scheduling challenge happens.

That doesn’t mean I ignored the football universe outside of New England entirely. Here are the things I was able to notice during the week in football:

  • There’s nothing better than bookending the weekend with Pennsylvania-based teams screwing up my weekly picks. And doing it in dramatic fashion. Three days after the Eagles kicked off another losing week for me with that ghastly five turnover game, the Steelers really put the nail in my picks coffin last night with…a ghastly five turnover game! Thank you so much, Keystone State, for being the miserable bread to an otherwise decent sandwich of football picks in week 3.
  • An Oakland cover tonight will put me at 7-8-1 for the week, exactly the same as last week but still not what we’re looking for.
  • More heartbreaking for my picks than the Philly and Pittsburgh turnover fests were the way two other games ended. First it was Aldrick Robinson for the Redskins catching a game-saving 57-yard touchdown pass with 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter only to have it overturned upon replay. Then it was San Diego having their win in hand at Tennessee only to see the Titans score with 15 seconds left on an OUTRAGEOUS push-off by the wide receiver. Two wins against the spread evaporating in seconds…
  • Quick tangent since I was just talking about the Thursday night game. That Andy Reid gatorade bath followed by some of the Chiefs players sitting in the stands with their fans after the game was the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen from a 3-0 team. Doesn’t matter that it was Reid’s emotional return to Philly. Doesn’t matter if it was a spontaneous move by the players. It’s simply uncalled for to treat the third regular season game like it’s the Super Bowl. More outrageous than what the Dodgers did in the pool at Arizona on Thursday, and I thought that was pretty crappy too.
  • This week’s installment of “I’m so superstitious I can find omens in the weirdest places”: I noticed early on in the Patriots game that the referee was the one me and my friends have nicknamed “Steve Martin” (Jeff Triplette is the ref’s real name. One time I thought he looked like Steve Martin and it stuck). Father of the Bride was playing Sunday morning when I turned the TV on. Obviously the Pats were going to win.
  • Hey I heard James Starks was the hot waiver wire pickup in fantasy football leading up to week 3. So I just wanted to ask the people who either paid out the ass in an auction/waiver league or used up a good waiver priority spot in a standard league how Starks worked out for you yesterday? Looks like he had about five fantasy points compared to Jonathan Franklin’s 16. I’m not trying to rub it in, but you should know going forward in a situation like Green Bay’s, when the lead RB goes down, they’re probably filling that void in production by a combination of people. And when the guy you’re picking up is described by all the analysts as “just a guy” and “I guess he’s the man for now,” you might want to lower your expectations.
  • Does that mean Jonathan Franklin is going to be the new hot waiver pickup this week? I’d say Franklin, Bilal Powell, Donnie Avery and Kenbrell Thompkins will get the most looks on the waiver wire heading into week 4 (and maybe Brian Hoyer?)
  • Speaking of Green Bay-Cincinnati, it seemed like every time the Red Zone Channel switched to that game they were showing a turnover. Eight turnovers to be exact.
  • And though I’ve been calling Mike McCarthy a bad coach for years, it seems like maybe Aaron Rodgers finally figured that out on Sunday.
  • How about that inspired football from the Browns? All week long I toyed with the idea of making Minnesota my suicide pick because there aren’t many times this year where you’ll feel good about using them. But what better time to get them out of the way than when they’re hosting the lowly Browns? I was so close to picking them, but ultimately I went with Seattle. I can’t say the same thing about two poor souls in my pool who went with Minnesota only to watch the Brian Hoyer show ruin their day.
  • I’m calling it the Hoyer show because it really was. He attempted 54 passes, threw for over 300 yards and put up three touchdowns, compared to the Browns’ 17 rushing attempts. And he even had a better passer rating than Christian Ponder.
  • I don’t know where the Vikings go from here as it seems like they’re in for a long, frustrating season. I do have one recommendation for head coach Leslie Frazier though. Assuming you want a chance to keep your job during what could be a three or four win season, you might want to follow what is now one of the most known rules in football. On a play that was ruled a turnover in the Vikings-Browns game, Frazier threw the challenge flag because he disagreed with the call. We all know that turnovers are automatically reviewed, and we also know that if you throw a red flag on an automatically-reviewed play, you get penalized 15 yards. You know why we all know this? Because last year Jim Schwartz made it famous on Thanksgiving when he tried to challenge a Houston touchdown only to learn that he can’t challenge an automatically reviewed play, but since he did try to challenge it, the play would no longer be reviewed and he’d be assessed a penalty. And as if that wasn’t enough, just a couple weeks after Schwartz made this entire procedure famous, Mike F-ing McCarthy tried to do the same thing, except one of his players was smart enough to know the rule and quickly picked up the challenge flag before the referees could figure out what was going on. AND THEN, in the offseason, the rules committee decided it wasn’t fair to not review an automatically-reviewed play just because a coach didn’t follow the rules. So they changed it. Now the play will still get reviewed, but the team loses a timeout (or gets a penalty for delay of game if they don’t have a timeout).
  • I went into crazy detail in the previous paragraph because I CAN’T UNDERSTAND HOW A HEAD COACH WOULD FUCK THIS UP AT THIS POINT. It’s infuriating to competent people like me!
  • Even though the play didn’t end up counting, I loved seeing David Wilson do a backflip from a standstill in the end zone after his touchdown on Sunday. Maybe it’s just me, but I always thought being able to do a backflip would be the coolest thing. If I could do it, I’d be backflipping nonstop, all day long. Just backflipping in my living room while I watch TV. Backflipping on the sidewalk while my dog takes a shit. Backflipping in line at Target just because I’m bored.
  • Oh, and the Giants are firmly entrenched in my “do not bet on them no matter the circumstances” doghouse (like a true gambling pro, I made a big bet on the Giants when the lines first came out on Tuesday, then forgot I made that bet, so I made another huge bet on them Sunday morning. Always recommended to double down on an 0-2 road team).
  • And on the opposite end of the spectrum, Tennessee may now be a team that we should be betting on no matter the circumstances. They’re 2-1 with the loss coming in overtime on the road against the best team in their division. They have a rough patch coming up where they face Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco in consecutive weeks, but they have a real shot to win nine games. They might sneaky go 16-0 agains the spread this year.
  • My girlfriend informed me during the games on Sunday that there are two things in my life that I’m only average at: putting keys into locks the right way on the first try, and picking out appropriately-sized tupperware when saving leftovers.
  • Speaking of mixing women with football-watching, I’ve always thought that having my girlfriend home while I watch the games in our living room is really maxing out the number of females I can tolerate in the apartment while I watch football. On Sunday a female friend was over and I was nervous. Especially after she not-so-politely suggested I watch my games on the small TV in the bedroom so they could watch Sex & The City in the living room. But then out of nowhere, they both started cooking meals for me and making me mimosas. Usually I have one woman cooking for me on Sundays but this weekend I had two. If it wasn’t for their long conversation about when it’s appropriate to unfriend someone on Facebook drowning out the Patriots game, it would have been perfect.
  • And when I heard the two women agree to take a “wine and painting class” together in a few weeks, it made my day because it got me off the hook. My girlfriend has mentioned taking a class like that (or a couples cooking class) roughly 1,372 times since we moved in together. Thank god for the second woman.
  • Did you know only two divisions in football have a combined winning record? That would be the AFC East (9-3) and the AFC West (8-4 after Monday night), the two divisions that were unanimously voted as the worst in football this year. Just like the AFC vs NFC stuff at the beginning of this article, I have no idea what it means. It just felt necessary to point out.
  • You want a proof point on the NFL’s randomness? Look no further than Indy. The Colts barely survived a week 1 home game against an Oakland team being led by Terrelle Pryor. Then they lost their second home game to Miami, a team no one considered to be very good. And on Sunday the Colts went on the road and absolutely manhandled the consensus-to-win-the-Super-Bowl 49ers. The NFL makes no sense so why do we spend so much of our lives trying to make sense of it?
  • Some backup QBs who made cameos on Sunday: Curtis Painter, subbing in for Eli Manning because the Giants were down so big, and Tavaris Jackson, subbing in for Russell Wilson because the Seahawks were up so big. Looking forward to seeing Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman and Christian Ponder in that same type of role next year.
  • Just a word of warning to fellow football fans out there: Be careful when you type “RBs” in a football-related text message. Your phone may autocorrect it to “Arabs” like my phone did twice on Sunday. I’m sending people messages that say, “You’re lucky, you own the two best Arabs.” Perfect.
  • Eventually I might have to soften on some claims I made in the preseason/early regular season. That list would probably include the following: Ryan Tannehill is a bad QB, the Saints D is not going to make a drastic turnaround this year, Andy Reid and Alex Smith won’t make the Chiefs a playoff contender, the 49ers could go 16-0 if they win in Seattle. Like I said, at some point I might have to admit I was wrong about this stuff. But not after week 3.
  • Were the Matt Cassel chants in Minnesota yesterday a low point for the franchise? What names could the fans chant that would make you feel worse as an organization? “TEBOW”? “SANCHEZ”? “JAMARCUS”?
  • I think Geno Smith is a better QB right now than E.J. Manuel, and it’s not even close.
  • The end of that Jets-Bills game was kind of weird. With the clock running down toward 0:00 and the Bills obviously only getting 1 more play off while trailing by 7, E.J. Manuel…snaps the ball and takes a knee? Really? You didn’t want to try a hail mary or a pass and then lateral situation when you literally had nothing to lose? Strange.
  • As for my Vitriol Award of the Week, it definitely goes to Philadelphia. Only hours before that Thursday night kickoff I posted my picks and claimed I’d never been as confident as I was in Philly over Kansas City. Then the Eagles proceeded to turn the ball over on seemingly every possession. But the worst was how they stayed in the game the entire time due to the combination of their defense and KC’s offensive ineptitude. Rather than a blowout that I could turn off at halftime, they strung us along until the bitter end. Just a terrible start to the week.

While wasting time on Sunday night and looking through the upcoming schedule, I picked out four teams that should be nervous about what’s on the horizon:

  • The Bills’ next nine games are: Baltimore, @Cleveland, Cincinnati, @Miami, @New Orleans, Kansas City, @Pittsburgh, NY Jets, Atlanta. And then they end the season with Miami and @New England. That’s 10 losable games out of those 11.
  • The Saints have two rough patches: weeks 4-6 are Miami, @Chicago, @New England. And then weeks 10-13 are Dallas, San Francisco, @Atlanta, @Seattle.
  • And the Chargers have a stretch where they play five of six games against potential AFC playoff teams. Weeks 10-15 they play two vs Denver and one each against Kansas City, Cincinnati and Miami.
  • The Patriots’ next five opponents have a combined record of 11-4 and three of those are on the road. The real season starts on Sunday.

That’s it for my stream of consciousness recap. Hope everyone’s week 3 was more profitable than mine. Week 4 picks are coming up on Thursday. Enjoy the Monday Night Blowout.

Fall TV Preview: CBS Celebrates Mother’s Day?

josh-radnor

If I was excited about tonight’s new and returning TV shows, I might start this article by writing “Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!”

Tonight CBS is doubling down with mom-themed shows. There’s the old standby How I Met Your Mother beginning its final season, and the brand new Mom setting sail on its maiden voyage.

As was the case last week, we’ve reviewed the potential of both shows for you below. I hate spoilers as much as the next guy, but I’ll at least tell you that you probably won’t be sprinting to your nearest remote control to add these shows to your DVR list before they air tonight.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that later in the week there will be some legitimately interesting shows to review. Until then, enjoy the live-audience programming that tens of millions of people apparently love.

New Show

Mom

When & Where: 9:30pm on CBS

What: A family sitcom about a recovering alcoholic single mom who has a mom of her own who’s also an alcoholic/bad influence. It feels like the mother-daughter version of Two Broke Girls (a comparison you’d only understand if you currently watch that horrific CBS show, which starts back up tonight…but we won’t be reviewing it because once again, it’s terrible).

Who: Anna Faris plays the lead role, and Allison Janney plays her mom. And Badger from Breaking Bad plays the father of Anna Faris’ daughter.

Ross’s Take: Pass. I know there’s going to be an audience for this show because it comes from the Chuck Lorre/CBS factory (together they’ve created Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly, all current CBS hits). So if you’re a fan of those other shows, you’ll probably want to check out Mom. But other than The Big Bang Theory, I can’t stand the live-audience sitcoms. The humor is…unintelligent? nonexistent? stuff that I might have found funny 10 years ago? You know how it goes…there are people whose sense of humor gravitates towards things like Arrested Development and Parks & Recreation, and then there are people who get their comedy rocks off to the dull CBS shows of the world. It’s not wrong of you to like these shows. It just means you’re less educated than the rest of us.

I give this show a 1 out of 5, but like all of the shows in my previews, I’ll watch the first episode and recalibrate if I have to.

Julie’s Take: The trailer didn’t make me laugh and couldn’t even keep my attention. I give it a 2 out of 5, so I’m still giving it a chance. And I don’t want to sound like a mean person because I’m sure Anna Faris is a good person and funny, but I just don’t find her funny at all.

(I can attest to the fact that this is the first TV trailer out of all the previews we’ve done where she walked away in the middle. And not even to do something more interesting…she went to straighten her hair rather than finish watching.)

Returning Show

How I Met Your Mother

When & Where: 8:00pm on CBS

What: A sitcom that centers around five friends living in New York in their early 30s, with a specific focus on Ted Mosby’s never-ending search for his soulmate.

Who: Main characters are played by Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel. The other two main actors are apparently terrible and you wouldn’t have seen them in anything else.

Ross’s Take: I already poured my heart out in August about the most troubling aspect of this show: that the stakes of whiney douchebag Ted finding his true love aren’t high enough to keep me invested as the show continually strings us along to that fateful meeting between him and the future mother. And for a show that used to be genuinely funny, it’s become genuinely unfunny. And let’s face it, if you’ve never watched this show before today, you’re not going to start now. Too many inside jokes and humor that’s derived from previous episodes. And if you have watched every episode to this point, my negative review probably isn’t going to sway you. But I won’t back down from my stance in that August article that after watching the first eight years of this show, I’m quitting with only 20 episodes left.

Julie’s Take: I hate that show but I am gonna watch it for sure. I would not miss it. I give it a 4.5 out of 5 in that I’m definitely going to watch it, but I give it only a 2.5 out of 5 for how much I actually like it.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a handful of shows that might actually have promise. Stay tuned.

Fall TV Preview: Friday Night’s Only Show

Shark Tank

Ahh, the weekend. A time to get out of the house and enjoy our beautiful world, even if you’re only going outdoors because there is absolutely nothing on TV during this time of the week.

You never see worthwhile television programs on Saturdays unless you like sports (both the main stream sports like college football and the obscurities like the World Track & Field Championships) or movies that you should have seen on HBO months ago. There’s nothing else.

Fridays are generally where TV shows go to die. When a network show is really struggling in its Monday-Thursday timeslot, oftentimes you’ll see it moved to Fridays to play out the string before cancellation.  

But there’s one show that’s bucked this trend over the past four years. It’s a show that works perfectly for Friday nights because it’s not something you ever feel you have to watch right away. You can DVR it and still go enjoy your Friday night. But once you get sucked into this show like I did three years ago, I have a feeling you’ll be making excuses to leave the bar early in order to watch this fantastic show.

Shark Tank

When & Where: 9:00pm on ABC

What: A reality show where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business idea to a group of potential investors (known as “sharks”). Quite simply, someone comes into the shark tank with a product they’ve only recently begun selling and try to entice at least one investor into buying a stake in the company in exchange for a chunk of cash (known in the business world as an investment). The sharks either laugh the business right out of the tank or start negotiating with the person for a better deal.

Who: The only name you’d recognize on the panel of sharks is Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner. There’s a shark who is well known on QVC. The founder and CEO of FUBU clothing company is also a shark.

Ross’s Take: Typically I’m not a reality show person, but Shark Tank is an exception. Part of the attraction for me is the David vs Goliath feel to the show. You’ve got these five billionaires staring down these cute little business people who just want some investment money and a business mentor for their homemade vegan cookie business (or their “sweatshirt that doubles as a blanket” business), and you always feel so good for the entrepreneur when they get a deal. In the classic reality competition blueprint, they show some ideas that are fantastic and immediately get offers from the sharks, and other ideas that are TERRIBLE and get ripped to shreds by the sharks. It’s the business version of watching a horrific singer during the American Idol tryouts.

While I’m fascinated by the negotiation when it’s a good idea, I tend to enjoy the people who bungle their sales pitch or just have a crappy idea a lot more. You can see a quick list of all the ideas that have been pitched on the show and whether or not they got a deal by going HERE.

Here are a couple of my favorite ideas that did not (shockingly) get deals:

  • A “lunchable” for dogs where the guy essentially splits up regular dog food into a compartmentalized plastic container. He puts a small amount of water in there too and says it will revolutionize the way dog owners travel. One of the sharks points out that a plastic Ziploc bag could do the same thing.
  • A couple guys who want money to make a movie based on motorcycling called “Track Days”. They don’t have a script, actors or anyone to produce it. But they have lots of motorcycle sound effects.
  • And my favorite: The Sullivan Generator, which produces energy from the earth’s rotation while providing pure drinking water from ocean water AND spitting out gold as a by-product. A simple product that creates usable energy, drinking water and gold. How could that not be a slam dunk?

I give the Shark Tank a 4 out of 5. It’ll never get old because we get to see new crazy idea after new crazy idea. You will not be disappointed if you start watching this show. And for those of you who already watch this show and want to spice it up a bit, I found a blog that created a drinking game out of the show. It’s pretty entertaining.

Julie’s Take: “It’s my favorite show. Robert is my favorite shark from a personality standpoint, but Mark is my actual favorite shark because he always makes offers on things and Robert almost never does. I also think two of the sharks are having an affair (Kevin and Barbara). I like watching the good ideas more than the bad ideas. I give it a 4.5 out of 5. It’s only not a 5 because I don’t feel like I have to watch it immediately when it airs.”

(Side Note: I wonder how many times during all these TV preview blogs Julie’s going to say “It’s my favorite show” or “it’s the best.” I’m thinking at least 15.)

Week 3 Picks Against the Spread

cleveland browns suck

As if the fantasy football world wasn’t already chaotic enough this week with the fallout from the absurd number of week 2 injuries, the Cleveland Browns had to go and do weird shit, turning the waiver wire period into a roller coaster of panic and depression for plenty of fantasy owners. Trent Richardson’s value plummets this week (and then skyrockets starting next week), Ahmad Bradshaw’s value takes a permanent nosedive, the entire Cleveland receiving corps’ stock also takes a hit considering defenses no longer have to worry about a running threat or a semi-legitimate starting quarterback. It’s all so confusing.

Speaking of fantasy, it’s great to see Cleveland’s management treating the real NFL season as if it’s a fantasy keeper league where their team is 0-8 and they’re looking to stockpile valuable assets for next year.

By now you’ve seen the tweets from all the NFL reporters stating that only one other top 3 draft pick in the league’s history has ever been playing for his second team as early on in his career as Trent Richardson. So even though it falls short of the insanity that would ensue if someone like Adrian Peterson or Aaron Rodgers was traded during the season, it’s a pretty big deal.

It created quite the stir in my world immediately after news broke. Here’s the timeline of my many reactions to this confusing transaction that went down on Wednesday afternoon:

  • 3:17pm PST: I look at my Twitter timeline for roughly the 356th time today and see Adam Schefter’s tweet stating that the Browns have traded Trent Richardson to the Colts.
  • 3:18-3:22pm: I stare blankly at the wall trying to process this information. My brain can’t comprehend such an unprecedented move.
  • 3:23pm: I go back to Twitter because it’s obviously a fake Adam Schefter account that tweeted the fake Richardson news, right?
  • 3:24pm: I start to see other reputable football reporters and websites re-tweet the original Schefter tweet. This is real.
  • 3:25-3:29pm: I stare at the wall again, befuddled because this really never happens in football, and it doesn’t even make sense if these things did happen in football (I could understand the Jaguars trading a guy like MoJo, that would make sense, but not this).
  • 3:30pm: I scream and repeatedly slam my computer on my desk because I just realized that with Steven Jackson and Ray Rice banged up, Ahmad Bradshaw was going to be a much needed starter for my fantasy team for the next couple weeks.
  • 3:32pm: I realize that the screw job the Browns just pulled trickles down to all of their offensive players because the combination of “RB TBD” and Brian Hoyer at QB means this team might get held to 50 total yards of offense every week for the rest of the year. Jordan Cameron was a guy I was very high on in the preseason so of course I drafted him in many fantasy leagues.
  • 3:34pm: On the bright side, I’m now considering being the only person in my Suicide Pool to not pick Seattle. If I pick Minnesota over Cleveland, and somehow Jacksonville pulls off the miracle in Seattle, I’ll win $500. OK, maybe I’m over-thinking things now.
  • 3:35pm: Calming down now and re-thinking my initial instinct of “Cleveland is the dumbest franchise in sports all over again.” After all, I just wrote a blog nine months ago about how insignificant highly-drafted running backs are in the grand scheme of a franchise winning the Super Bowl (Basically what I’m saying is that there’s no correlation between a team having a highly-drafted RB who performs like a stud and that team going to the playoffs. I went back and looked at the past five drafts. The data backs up my claim).
  • 3:37pm: I finally relax a little. And I’m thankful that three of my four fantasy leagues use daily waiver wires for pickups because I’ve been paralyzed for the past 15 minutes and couldn’t possibly have reacted quick enough to the news that Willis McGahee is now the chic RB pickup based on this crazy NFL trade.
  • 3:38pm: Oh, now I understand why the Browns are starting their 3rd string QB and not Jason Campbell. They’re trying to out-Jacksonville Jacksonville and ensure they get the top pick in next year’s draft. Well played, Mike Lombardi. Well played.
  • 3:40pm: I realize that this crazy trade combined with me writing a detailed timeline of my reaction will distract my readers quite nicely from my 9-21-2 season record against the spread. Thank you, Cleveland.

On top of all that batshit craziness coming out of Ohio, it is now Thursday morning and the site I use for point spreads still doesn’t have a line on four of the 16 games this weekend. That’s when you know it isn’t a normal week. My head is spinning.

Let’s just get to the week 3 picks:

Kansas City @ Philadelphia (-3.5)

Man, how do the Chiefs and Eagles top that beautiful Patriots-Jets game from last Thursday night? Oh, right, they just have to complete more than 27% of their pass attempts and put up three total touchdowns. Got it.

Regarding this line, I know exactly what you’re thinking…the Chiefs cover because it’s at least a half-point too high, it’s a Thursday night game where teams tend to play sloppy and close. I get it. But here’s the deal: Kansas City may be 2-0, but they haven’t proven anything yet. They beat up on Jacksonville in week 1, and then they took advantage of a Dallas team in week 2 that repeatedly sabotaged themselves. The Chiefs didn’t win that game so much as Dallas lost it. Penalties, weird coaching decisions, an untimely fumble…The Cowboys did it all. Philadelphia covers. I’ve never been more confident. Something like 27-17.

San Diego @ Tennessee (-3)

I have no read on these teams. Both have looked good for seven of eight quarters so far this year. And if each of them could have played a decent eighth quarter, they’d both be 2-0. You know, it would be such a Philip Rivers move to get the Chargers to 2-1 and have everyone talking about them being the surprise team in the AFC. For his entire career, Rivers has been doing the exact opposite of what we expected. We figured a young QB in the anti-spotlight of San Diego would coast under the radar, but Rivers came out guns blazing with his constant bitching at teammates, referees and opposing QBs. At one point we annointed him the next Super Bowl winning QB, but he decided an AFC Championship appearance was good enough. We thought he was soft, then found out he played in that ’08 conference title game with a torn ACL. Last year we still considered him one of the top 12 QBs and he bottomed out. This year we wrote him off, and…he just became the hot waiver wire pickup in fantasy this past week. Since we still expect nothing out of this Chargers team, I think they go into Tennessee and win handily, 23-13.

Cleveland @ Minnesota (-6.5)

You don’t announce you’re tanking the season by starting your third-best quarterback only days after trading away your franchise running back and expect your players to show up motivated. How can a single Browns player feel like giving 100% effort this week? They just went from a frisky middle-of-the-road team to an organization who’s already waving the white flag. Or does it go the opposite way, and the players bond over the “those mother fuckers in the front office don’t think we’re part of the future, let’s show them what a big mistake they made” mantra? No, it doesn’t go that way. The Vikings win 24-6.

Tampa Bay @ New England (-7)

If the Bucs don’t have meltdowns at the end of each of their first two games, they’re 2-0 instead of 0-2. And the Patriots didn’t exactly confuse the two rookie QBs they’ve faced so far. In fact, you could say that the Bills and Jets gave away those games to New England. If the Patriots get one less break, they’re 1-1 instead of 2-0. If the undefeated Bucs are facing the 1-1 Patriots, this line is 4 instead of 7. And the Pats still have no Amendola and probably no Gronk. And I’m still nervous about the revelation I had last week that the Patriots typically lose an early-season game to an inferior team. What am I missing here? The Pats are going to win a lot of games by less than a touchdown until they’re full strength (if that ever happens). New England wins 26-24, meaning Tampa covers.

Houston (-2.5) @ Baltimore

Some teams have earned the benefit of the doubt at home no matter how sketchy they’ve looked in recent weeks. Sure, Houston could go into Baltimore and beat up on a beat-up team, but I don’t think they will. Baltimore’s defense will be the best that the Texans have seen so far. I still don’t trust Matt Schaub on the road. The Ravens have a significant coaching advantage if it’s close late in the game. My one concern is the Ed Reed factor. It would just be so perfect if he ices this game for Houston with a pick-six late in the 4th quarter against his old team. But I’m still taking Baltimore to cover and squeak out a one-point victory, 24-23.

St. Louis @ Dallas (-4)

If I could punt on one game each week, this would probably be it for week 3. I’m taking Dallas in this game probably for the same reason so many people take them to win the NFC East every year…because I feel like they’re better than they probably are. I also think St. Louis is one of those “count on them at home, don’t touch them on the road” teams. But four points is just enough for Jason Garrett to screw me over. The scenario I envision is this: late 4th quarter, Cowboys up four and driving. It’s 4th & 2 from the St. Louis 30 yard line. Garrett decides to kick a field goal to go up by 7. St Louis marches down the field and ties it up. The Cowboys win by thee in overtime. I hate this already, but I’ve got Dallas winning 31-26.

Arizona @ New Orleans (-7)

OK, New Orleans, I’m jumping on the bandwagon for one week. I’ll temporarily buy the bullshit you’re selling that Sean Payton’s return combined with Rob Ryan’s influence on the defense has turned this team into an NFC contender. Just know that I’m suspicious and I’ve taken a seat in the emergency exit row of this bandwagon. The Saints win a shootout, 35-27.

Detroit @ Washington (-2)

Call me crazy, but I love the Redskins in this game. Not that anyone wants to hear excuses, but the ‘Skins were dealt a pretty bad hand to start the season. Week 1 was RGIII’s timid return combined with their defense being the guinea pig for Chip Kelly’s offense. Week 2 had them on the road at Green Bay…no one, with possibly the exception of San Francisco, has had it harder to start the year. Detroit may end up being solid this year, but on the road against a team that can run and throw, I dunno. I like Washington to finally get on the board. Obviously if you think the Redskins win, you’re taking them to cover. I say Washington wins 30-27.

Green Bay (-3) at Cincinnati

I’m terrified of betting against Aaron Rodgers and his 127.2 passer rating, but I don’t trust Green Bay on the road. And let’s not forget that Colin Kaepernick and RGIII threw for a ton of yards on this Packers defense. That defense is not fixed from last year in my opinion. The Bengals suddenly have lots of offensive weapons and an aggressive defense. I’m taking Cincinnati to cover and win outright, 27-24.

NY Giants @ Carolina (Pick)

Guess what, Giants? You’re not roping me into this again. It was during week 3 last year when the Giants traveled to Carolina to play on short rest in the Thursday night game. EVERYONE thought the Panthers were a lock, mostly because the Giants had lost several key players to injury (Hakeem Nicks comes to mind) during an exhausting comeback win against Tampa the previous Sunday. This is still fresh in my mind. I’m going with a Breaking Bad quote here, so consider this your SPOILER ALERT.

“…he’s the devil…Whatever you think is supposed to happen, I’m telling you, the exact, reverse opposite of that is going to happen.” -Jesse Pinkman talking about Walter White

That’s my exact feeling on the Giants. They are the devil (or at the very least they have a deal with the devil), and the opposite of expectations will happen.

The Giants win going away, 37-23. And the Ron Rivera hot seat gets turned up to “scolding”.

Atlanta @ Miami (-3)

At the start of the season, nobody would have expected to see the Dolphins favored against a team like Atlanta. But Miami’s 2-0 start combined with key injuries for Atlanta on both sides of the ball means the Dolphins are actually favored against last year’s NFC runner-up. I’m on record as saying Ryan Tannehill is a bad QB, but the Falcons injuries…that’s the proverbial coin flip right there. Tannehill vs a banged up team…A banged up team vs Tannehill…Finkle and Einhorn…Einhorn and Finkle. Whoops, sorry about that. You know what? The Falcons aren’t going to be able to protect a lead late in games until Steven Jackson’s back. But in this game, I think they’re down by six with two minutes left and Matt Ryan drives them down the field for the game-winning touchdown. He’s a really good quarterback, by the way. Atlanta wins and covers, 24-23.

Indianapolis @ San Francisco (-10)

Let’s assume Trent Richardson isn’t going to have a huge impact on this game. I think that’s fair. You’d want to take the 49ers here for two reasons: 1). They’ve gotta be extremely pissed off after the egg they laid in Seattle, and 2). The Colts just lost at home to Miami. You could even add in a #3…the Colts barely survived a home game in week 1 against Oakland. This has all the makings of a blowout, except the 49ers are more injured than you might think and Andrew Luck in garbage time could easily orchestrate the backdoor cover. That’s what I’m banking on when I say 49ers win, 30-23.

Jacksonville @ Seattle (-19)

I haven’t stopped thinking about this line since I first saw it on Monday. It’s almost unheard of for two teams to be this far apart (at least in the modern NFL). And all week long the thought has been the same from anyone I talked to: “Yeah, Seattle’s gonna kill ‘em, but that line is just too high to bet on.”

I thought I agreed with that until this morning. You see, the only way you can back Jacksonville is if you think Seattle takes its foot off the pedal after they go up by 28 or so. Then the Jaguars get a couple garbage time scores, and boom, you’ve got yourself a Jacksonville cover.

But you only need to look back to last year to know the Seahawks won’t play it like that. In a week 14 home game against Arizona, the ‘Hawks were up 38-0 in the 3rd quarter and 51-0 late in the 4th quarter, and both times they still aggressively went for and converted touchdown drives. Their final touchdown in a 58-0 blowout came with 2:32 left in the game. So yeah, they have no problem running up the score. And does anyone reading this think the Jaguars are as good as last year’s Cardinals team?

During the 2012 season, Seattle also won games by 29, 33 and 21 points. Covering this 19 point spread would not be unprecedented for them. So for those reasons, I’ve gotta take Seattle to cover with a final score of 52-13.

I desperately wanted to get cute with my Suicide Pool pick this week, but after much thought, Seattle is clearly the pick.

Buffalo @ NY Jets (-3)

Hmm, two rookie QBs, two AFC East afterthoughts…two, ah fuck it. I’m taking the Bills, 20-14.

Chicago (-3) @ Pittsburgh

As a rule, I don’t have many gambling rules. But I’ve got one that applies to this game: “Beware of the undefeated team that’s playing a road game against a seemingly inferior team early in the season.”

Sure, the Bears don’t look dominant by the traditional definition, but they are 2-0 and they’re facing what could be a terrible Pittsburgh squad. No doubt you can find plenty of reasons to take Chicago here, but I’m going with Pittsburgh to win outright, 23-20. The Bears are 2-0, but both games have been at home and they haven’t looked spectacular in either. The Steelers are 0-2, but they showed some signs of life in week 2 and I think Roethlisberger knows he has to take over on offense. A primetime game at Heinz Field is still plenty motivating for the Steelers regardless of how the rest of the year works out. I may be backing an eventual 0-16 team here, but it just feels right.

Oakland @ Denver (-15.5)

This is the game that’s going to play out exactly how you all think the Seattle-Jacksonville game’s going to go. I know, it’s Peyton on national TV, in a division game, against a really bad team, blah blah blah.

I just can’t pick two teams to cover this large of a point spread in the same week. I’m going with Denver to win, 34-20.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 3 I’m taking:

  • 6 Favorites & 9 Underdogs (the Giants/Panthers doesn’t count as neither a favorite nor an underdog)
  • Of those 9 Underdogs, 3 of them are Home Dogs and 6 of them are Road Dogs

Season record: 9-21-2 (frowny face)

Enjoy week 3 (unless you’re a Browns or Jaguars fan).

Fall TV Preview: Returning Shows on Wednesday, September 18th

fall TV

Yesterday’s Fall TV premieres on FOX were really just a tease because the schedule is particularly light with new & returning shows for the rest of the week. Next week is when the real action begins.

As a matter of fact, you won’t be seeing a TV preview blog from me on Thursday because there’s nothing on that night.

Tonight there are no brand new shows but a couple returning shows that might be worth your time. Let’s jump into the season premieres for Wednesday, September 18th:

Survivor: Blood vs Water

When & Where: 8:00pm on CBS

What: A reality game show where contestants have to outwit, outplay and outlast each other while surviving isolation in the wilderness for up to 39 days. The person deemed “sole survivor” at the end wins a $1 Million reward.

Who: In its 27th installment, Survivor is bringing back a bunch of former contestants paired with their loved ones. Also, Jeff Probst, the show’s host, is simply the greatest host/moderator/instigator in TV history.

Ross’s Take: People tend to be surprised that this show is still going strong after 13 years of being on the air, but I promise you it’s the only reality game show worth watching. The basic rules are still the same—16-20 people compete in physical and mental challenges while roughing it for nearly six weeks in the wilderness, all while trying to make alliances and ensure they won’t be voted out by their tribe mates—but in recent seasons there have been twists to keep the show from getting stale (Survivor All-Stars, Survivor Heroes vs Villains, a twist where you can get back in the game after being voted out if you survive a competition with other exiled contestants on a separate island). It appears this season’s twist is that half the players are former contestants and the other half are their loved ones. Two brothers, a mother-daughter combo, an uncle-niece combo, etc… From what I can tell, the contestants think they are teaming up with their loved ones, but as soon as they get to the Philippines they’ll find out they’re competing against each other.

This show’s major appeal for me is the buffoonery that usually goes on throughout the season. Without fail, someone will get voted off while holding onto an immunity idol (a “get out of jail free”-like object that can save the person who possesses it as long as they play it before that episode’s votes are read by Probst). Or in extreme cases, someone will give up his immunity necklace (which he won with a hard-fought physical challenge) because some woman with attractive breasts convinces him it’s the right move for the tribe. And then that woman will immediately orchestrate that moron’s ouster from the game. More often than not, we’ll get to see a certifiably crazy person start scaring the other tribe members to the point where they’ll keep him around only because they’re scared he will decapitate each and every one of them if he gets voted off.

I give Survivor a solid 4 out of 5 rating, acknowledging that some seasons are better than others.

Julie’s Take: I wasn’t able to get Julie’s opinions before she shuffled off to work this morning, but I know she’s a loyal Survivor watcher, and I have to think she’s going to get extra emotionally invested this season when loved ones are scheming against each other and screwing one another over. She’d probably give Survivor a 3.5 or 4 out of 5.

Key & Peele

When & Where: 10:30pm on Comedy Central

What: A sketch comedy show in the same vein as Chappelle Show. It consists of pre-taped sketches that are introduced by the show’s stars in front of a live audience.

Who: Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are the show’s creators, writers and stars. They were both former cast members on MADtv.

Ross’s Take: It’s a slightly tamer version of Chappelle Show. That’s the simplest explanation. I haven’t seen every episode of the first two seasons, but the ones I’ve seen have been extremely entertaining. There’s a lot of humor about race and stereotypes, but they’re just as likely to spend time breaking down the mechanics of a high five or doing a parody of a flash mob. It’s one of those shows that you have to watch at least once to see if their humor does it for you.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5. It’s one of those shows I’ll tape, not watch for a while, and then plow through four or five episodes in one sitting.

Julie’s Take: She’s tried to watch it with me before and hasn’t enjoyed it nearly as much as I do. I’m guessing she’d give it a 2 out of 5.

To reiterate, no preview on Thursday. Go ahead and enjoy Kansas City at Philadelphia on the NFL Network. I’ll be back on Friday with another short preview of the weekend in TV.

Fall TV Preview: New & Returning Shows Starting Tonight

Unless you’re one of the five people who enjoys watching Ryan Seacrest host the most arbitrary quiz show of all time, you’re probably ready for some decent TV back in your life.

As an industry insider living in Los Angeles, I hear all the talk about how the networks are now motivated to provide better programming during the summer months. But, no, summer TV still blows.

If you’re smart, you use the summer to get away from the television entirely. But not me. Being lazy is my life. So I’m stuck watching shows during the June-August months that would never stand a chance of making my exclusive DVR queue during prime TV-viewing season…The Newsroom, American Ninja Warrior, Under the Dome and MasterChef to name a few.

But here we are, September, when hope springs eternal for TV. Our favorite shows are returning along with plenty of new ones to try out.

The one problem with the start of TV season? How do you dig through the endless junk that the networks and cable channels throw at us to find those handful of shows that might turn into this decade’s The Office, 30 Rock or Breaking Bad? There’s almost too much to choose from.

That’s where I come in. I know what works in TV, and I know what you should be watching (picture me saying that in the most humble way possible).

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be posting blogs almost every day to give my recommendations on which shows to add to your DVR and which shows to add to your “Never Record List” (if that sort of thing existed, How I Met Your Mother would be at the top of it).

But since my point of view is limited to “30-year-old, college-educated, genius male,” I’ve recruited an assistant to review these shows with me. Her point of view is “30-year-old, Masters degree, female, who is way too easily entertained.” Throughout these blogs, she’ll simply be known as Julie.

I’ll also be embedding trailers to each TV show we’re reviewing whenever possible so you can easily decide for yourself if you don’t want to blindly follow our opinions.

When I asked a friend the other day what new shows he was planning on watching, he said he hates wasting his time getting into shows that ultimately get cancelled. So his plan is to not watch any new shows, see which ones get picked up for a second season later this year or early next year, and then catch up on season one.

This is a guy who wants life to be so efficient he wouldn’t dare waste a minute of his time on something that might not pan out down the road. He’s essentially a robot due to his “all logic, no emotion” philosophy.

But to some extent, I agree with him. It sucks getting into a new show and then finding out four weeks later it’s going to be cancelled by the end of the season. But I’m more of a cyborg than a robot. Sign me up to avoid almost all one-hour dramas until I find out it’s worth investing my time, but I can’t do that with the 30-minute sitcoms. I love laughing too much.

So for this series of blogs, you can expect lots of comedy reviews and almost no drama reviews. Got it?

Without further ado, here’s what’s on the schedule for Tuesday, September 17th:

Returning Shows

 

The Mindy Project

When & Where: 9:30pm on FOX

What: Workplace comedy that revolves around an OB/GYN who desperately wants her life to be right out of a classic romantic comedy/chick flick movie.

Who: Mindy Kaling of The Office fame is the creator and star. But the supporting cast and guest stars have as much to do with the hilarity of the show as Kaling does.

Ross’s Take: Don’t be scared off by the mention of a romcom/chick flick above. Much of the humor comes from the fact that Mindy takes great pains to make her life equivalent to the perfect Meg Ryan type of life from those 90s movies, but reality never works out quite as perfectly. The show splits time between Mindy’s professional life (her power struggle with the other doctors, her ongoing battle with a group of midwives that occupy the floor above her office) and her personal life (trying to have a one-night stand, embarrassing herself at weddings, trying to be a competent babysitter). In my opinion the supporting characters at her office are the best part of this show. Especially male nurse Morgan, played to perfection by Ike Barinholtz. If you watch Parks & Recreation, picture Andy Dwyer with a slightly more sinister past and a little more in the brain department.

I give The Mindy Project a 3.5 out of 5 on my arbitrary ratings scale, with a chance to move up to 4 during Season 2.

Julie’s Take: Mindy is the funniest person ever, and she has short hair this season! I give it a 6 out of 5 on Ross’s arbitrary ratings scale.

New Girl

When & Where: 9:00pm on FOX

What: A sitcom about four friends—three men, one woman—living together in LA, whose lives and romances sometimes overlap.

Who: Zooey Deschanel is the “girl” in the title. In the pilot episode two seasons ago, she broke up with her boyfriend and moved into an apartment with three guys.

Ross’s Take: It’s occasionally funny and has a pretty low priority on my TV-viewing schedule. Out of the four main characters, there’s one who’s constantly funny (Schmidt, the overconfident metrosexual who offends everyone with his cockiness), two who are sometimes funny (Jess, the dorky school teacher, and Nick the serial slacker), and one who is completely invisible on the show (Winston, a former basketball player and current radio show host who NEVER gets to say or do anything funny or relevant…seriously, no one knows why he’s even on the show at this point).

Through the first two seasons there was a “Jim & Pam from The Office” type of will they or won’t they relationship between Jess and Nick. But at the end of last season they started hooking up and that’s the big dramatic issue they’ll try to work out this season.

I give New Girl a 2 out of 5, and if enough new shows entertain me this Fall, this one will be the first to drop out of my DVR recording list.

Julie’s Take: I’m so sick of all the characters except for Schmidt. I’m excited about watching it, but it’s starting to go down the How I Met Your Mother path for me (meaning no longer funny but I have to watch it). I give it a 2.5 out of 5…3 if you push me.

New Shows

 

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

When & Where: 8:30pm on FOX

What: A workplace sitcom about an NYPD detective who plays the roll of class clown until he gets a new boss who wants everyone to operate “by the book.”

Who: Andy Samberg of Saturday Night Live/Dick In A Box fame plays the main character Jake Peralta.

Ross’s Take: It has potential as long as it doesn’t go too far down the slapsticky/watch Andy Samberg do little kid things road. If they have him doing things that I’d associate with a bad Adam Sandler movie, I’m out. The trailer makes me think we’re getting a lot of small roles and cameos from some pretty entertaining actors (Joe Lo Truglio and Fred Armisen are in the trailer) so I’m pinning my hopes to that.

I’ll give this a 3 out of 5 based on almost no information but the trailer.

Julie’s Take: It could be too slapsticky with Andy Samberg doing ridiculous stuff that annoys me, but I’m giving it a 5 out of 5 for now.

Dads

When & Where: 8:00pm on FOX

What: A buddy sitcom about two video game developers whose lives are turned upside down when their offensive/humiliating dads unexpectedly move in with them.

Who: Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi are the sons, Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) and Seth Green helped create it.

Ross’s Take: As an ordinary person, I’m passing on this show. But as a decorated TV critic and future TV writer, I’m going to watch a couple episodes just to see how bad it is. It looks bad. And I couldn’t help but seem some reviews from people who have gotten to watch a couple episodes ahead of time. They didn’t have anything good to say. It’s one of those shows with a laugh track where they go for the big laugh by having one of the dads walk around in a towel with his man boobs exposed. Or by the guys making the office assistant dress up like a Chinese school girl in a short skirt to impress some clients even though she’s adamantly against it. If that sounds funny to you, go for it.

I’m giving it a 0.5 out 5 with the strong possibility that I’m overrating it.

Julie’s Take: It looks hilarious. I’m giving it a high 4 out of 5.

Go ahead and get your DVRs ready because the shows (and my reviews) are going to be blasting you in the face nonstop for the next few weeks.

NFL Week 2 Recap: Overreaction vs Proper Reaction

When is it OK to start reacting to the results we’re seeing on the field? Because it seems like every tweet, every website column and every idiotic blog post keep telling us that reacting at all to these first couple weeks is overreacting. So when is it no longer overreacting and instead properly reacting? After week 3? After week 10? Am I going to write after week 14 that “the Browns have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs” only to have someone fire back at me that I’m overreacting to a small sample size?

There’s a delicate balance of using the information we’ve gotten from two weeks of the 2013 season to properly react while keeping things in perspective (is team X healthy? have they faced playoff-caliber teams in both games? was there one or two lucky or unlucky breaks that swung a game?). You get it.

One preseason truth that seems close to being debunked (but we need more time to truly find out) is that the NFC is significantly better than the AFC. I don’t think anyone would disagree that the top tier of the NFC (Seattle, San Francisco, Green Bay) has more teams than its AFC counterpart (Denver), but that middle tier of average-to-above-average teams might be closer than we think. The way I see it with the AFC, we could be talking about 14 of the 16 teams falling into that area. Denver is elite, Jacksonville is an 0-16 candidate and everyone else is somewhere in between. Teams that we thought wouldn’t have a pulse all year (Oakland, Tennessee, San Diego, NY Jets, Buffalo) are showing signs of life.

This isn’t all subjective analysis by me. The AFC is actually 5-1 against the NFC so far this year. But again, we’re not yet ready to claim the two conferences are evenly matched.

For those of you wondering if I’m going to avoid talking about another losing week with my picks against the spread, the answer is no. I’m actually ecstatic to be 6-8-1 (with the Monday night game pending). These first two weeks have been insanely unpredictable and I was able to improve from the two-win disaster last week to possibly seven wins this week. And I’ve looked around at some Pick ‘Em leagues and other experts’ columns from last Friday…no one is knocking it out of the park with the picks right now. The bottom line is I’m encouraged. Cannot wait for week 3.

But first let’s get through the rest of the week 2 recap.

(Side Note: The plan is to post the weekly recap on Mondays because that’s when people still give a crap about the weekend results. I suppose if crazy shit happens on Monday Night Football, I’ll add to the recap or do a shorter separate one on Tuesday. Otherwise I’ll be ignoring the Monday night game for the most part. This recap is coming to you late on Monday because I flew back from San Francisco this morning after a long weekend of putting harmful substances into my body. Hopefully you’ll be getting these by noon on Monday going forward.)

  1. I spent the weekend up in San Francisco mostly hanging out with my core group of football-watching, fellow degenerate friends. On Saturday afternoon one of the friends told us he had a dream the previous night that he shit his pants and got it all over him. He went into enough detail to tell us that in the dream he tried to use a towel to clean himself, but the towel was already a shit-stained brown. A totally random, disgusting story of course, but one of the other group members took this to mean he should bet BIG on the Cleveland Browns to cover against Baltimore on Sunday. It probably goes without saying (even if Cleveland had been able to pull off the road cover) that basing your sports bets on someone’s dream, especially when you’re making those kinds of interpretive leaps, is not the best way to win money.
  2. This same pants-shitting dreamer also told us while we were in Vegas one time that he had a dream he was playing roulette and the outcome of three consecutive rolls was Red Red Even. You can probably guess that a group of us immediately ran over to a roulette table and threw an insane amount of money on that combination. It did not work. You know what? I’m starting to think this guy is just fucking with us because he knows degenerate, superstitious gamblers will look for any sign to place a bet.
  3. As someone who predicted in August that Josh Freeman would be the first QB benched due to ineffectiveness, I loved seeing a story on cbssports.com on Sunday morning that Freeman might seek a trade because of the growing rift between him and head coach Greg Schiano.
  4. And that was before the Bucs choked away another game they had in the bag to fall to 0-2. Freeman, by the way, completed less than 50% of his passes for only 125 yards with two turnovers on Sunday.
  5. The real question now is who goes first Freeman or Schiano? Could both of their careers in Tampa be over before they emerge from their week 5 bye? Remember that Schiano pissed a lot of people off with his over aggressive playcalling when the Giants were in the victory formation last year. Now he’s alienated his starting QB repeatedly, and the team in general continues to be undisciplined and all too willing to make mental mistakes. I can’t remember seeing a coach recover from this. Can you?
  6. Of all the different picks in my Suicide Pool this week, the only person who didn’t have to sweat it out was the guy who took Oakland. How is that possible? The other picks (New England, Houston, Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Baltimore) either snuck by in a one-score game or lost outright. I had Chicago.
  7. If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you know I’m a huge fan of unintentional comedic timing. So my football-watching group got a good laugh on Sunday when I proudly proclaimed, “My Chicago bet is my biggest one of the day because I just can’t envision a scenario where the Vikings keep it close”….exactly 11 seconds before Minnesota returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
  8. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words so I’ll spare you from my list of “top 60 reasons I might never go to a live football game again” and just show you how I watched Sunday’s games instead: IMG_3261
  9. I was listening to a podcast this weekend where the hosts were recapping the Patriots-Jets game, and they were criticizing the New England fans for booing a Jets player who was injured in the 4th quarter. But here’s the new reality: Since faking an injury to slow down an offense has become the most overly talked about topic, we’re now at a point where every injury on the visiting team that is not the result of a vicious hit is going to get booed, loudly. It’s just the reality of the situation. No need for any fan base to get called out over the others. It’s going to happen in every stadium. It’s football’s version of baseball fans assuming every player is on PEDs. Oh, you got hurt while our offense was marching down the field? You’re a pathetic faker. Get your pansy ass up.
  10. When Eddie Lacy got drilled by Brandon Meriweather on Sunday morning, I was feeling real bad for myself because Lacy was one of my fantasy starters this week. Then Steven Jackson went down. Then Ray Rice went down. I have all three of those guys between a couple different fantasy teams. But it’s hard to have too much self pity when it seems like this happened to everyone. Look at this list of players that left their games due to injury on Sunday, definitely swinging real football matchups along with fantasy matchups: Rice, S Jax, Lacy, Reggie Bush, Larry Fitzgerald, Maurice Jones-Drew, Andre Johnson, Vernon Davis, Malcom Floyd, Brandon Weeden.
  11. So the Redskins are 0-2, meaning they only have to go 11-3 the rest of the way for my preseason prediction to be right. Here’s where I think I went wrong with my super optimism for them. The doctors cleared RGIII’s knee, the team said he was good to go and I kept thinking about Adrian Peterson’s brilliant return from knee surgery. What I never thought about was the knee injury that haunted my entire 2008 football-watching season: Tom Brady’s. After suffering torn knee ligaments in week 1 of 2008, Brady came back and led the 2009 Patriots to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth. But anyone who watched the team closely knew Brady wasn’t 100% for most of that year. There was rust and probably a little bit of fear. Carson Palmer’s another guy who never seemed quite the same after his major knee injury in 2006. It makes perfect sense that RGIII is going to have trouble replicating the way he played in 2012. Maybe not all season, but at least for a while. I wish I hadn’t been so blind to this.
  12. In the “told ya so” department, I’d like to point out that I knew Baltimore would struggle offensively this year, especially after losing Jacoby Jones for a few weeks. They scored exactly 0 points in the 1st half of a home game against the Browns on Sunday.
  13. In the “I’m now terrified” department, as soon as I wrote that note about the Ravens’ offense, I realized the Patriots might be exactly the same at least for the next handful of games. Are the Pats and Ravens basically in the same situation? Closer to average than elite but a soft schedule tricks us into giving them a chance for now? Gross.
  14. Last week my wide receiver erection was all over A.J. Green’s constantly amazing play. This week it’s pointing in the direction of Dez Bryant. He didn’t have the best day out of all WRs, but I think he might be the most uncoverable receiver in the NFL. It just seems like a mismatch every play, no matter who’s covering him. At least five times on Sunday it looked like Tony Romo decided before the play that he was throwing to Bryant no matter what the defense showed. And this is where I’d like to thank my former college roommate for trading Bryant to me in our fantasy league after week 1 of the 2012 season for Pierre Garcon (this guy being a huge Redskins homer probably had something to do with it). That trade allowed me to win the league in 2012 and I was able to keep Bryant on my roster for this year.
  15. This description on espn.com of Philadelphia’s final play in their 33-30 loss to San Diego caught my eye: (Shotgun) M.Vick pass short right to J.Avant to PHI 37 for 8 yards. Lateral to R.Cooper to PHI 35 for -2 yards. Lateral to M.Vick to PHI 35 for no gain. M.Vick pass to J.Peters to PHI 35 for no gain. Lateral to J.Avant to PHI 35 for no gain. FUMBLES, RECOVERED by SD-J.Addae at PHI 40. J.Addae to PHI 40 for no gain (B.Celek). PENALTY on PHI-M.Vick, Illegal Forward Pass, 5 yards, enforced at PHI 39.
  16. What a sequence that was. There was one other amazing sequence that I saw with my own eyes on Sunday. It was at the end of regulation in the Titans-Texans game. This tweet from Grantland.com’s Bill Barnwell summed it up best: “Munchak burns clock, ices a made kick, offsides on a blocked kick, ices a missed kick, kick off the goalpost.”
  17. Even though having an infant present during a long day of football watching means he’s going to learn some new words that Mom & Dad probably didn’t want him learning for another 15 years, I say it’s a good idea to get one if you can. When the dust settles on a 2-6-1 record for your morning picks, the only thing that can possibly cheer you up is a baby doing ridiculous shit…falling off furniture, getting more food on his face than in his mouth, visibly squeezing out a dump while he sits directly beside you. I recommend you find a baby to join your group each Sunday. Thanks to my 14-month-old nephew for making me temporarily forget about my Chicago-Philadelphia parlay.
  18. I’ll admit last year my hatred for Richard Sherman might have stemmed from the Seahawks’ win over the Patriots and his postgame trash-talking of Tom Brady. But he sent me into another rage last night and it had nothing to do with my hometown team. After Seattle’s 29-3 win over San Francisco on Sunday night, NBC reporter Michele Tafoya interviewed Sherman on the field. She asked him how he was able to hold Anquan Boldin to just one catch after he had 13 the previous week. Rather than answer the question that she was obviously trying to get him to answer (“how did you do such a good job”), he corrected her by saying, “that one catch wasn’t even on me.” What. A. Prick. Couldn’t possibly let the TV audience think he let up one catch to the guy. God forbid. Great team player, right?
  19. For the record, I’d rather see the Jets win three consecutive Super Bowls than have to live through the Seahawks winning one.
  20. With the end of Breaking Bad running at the same time as Sunday Night Football, I think for the next two Sunday nights we should get used to this: Screen shot 2013-09-15 at 9.25.00 PM
  21. Are you pissed off at your underachieving team so far in this young NFL season? Cheer up, buddy. It could be worse. You could be a fan of the Jaguars, whose first touchdown of the season came after 117 minutes of game time. Oh, and here’s what their fans were getting up to on Monday:

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9680957/fans-urge-jacksonville-jaguars-sign-tebow-rally

Let’s run through the weekly awards real quick:

The “Vitriol of the Week” Award presented by Gamblers Against High Blood Pressure (GAHBP)

Chicago Bears

Christian Ponder might be the worst quarterback in the NFL. You have one challenge on defense: shutdown Adrian Peterson. You have an explosive offense. You should have won this game by 20. You won on a semi-miraculous last minute drive, but of course you didn’t cover the spread, losing me plenty of money and valuable Pick ‘Em league points. You’re the worst.

The “Most Likely To Be Added To Fantasy Rosters Even Though He’ll Never Match This Week’s Performance Ever Again” Award

A tie between Eddie Royal and James Starks

If you’re in an auction league like I am, you’re going to have to pay out the ass for these guys even though they probably won’t equal this week’s output over their next five games combined. Good luck with that.

And finally, if you don’t feel like reading my plea to New England fans to relax, go ahead and close this page now.

Patriots fans, relax. Your team is 2-0 while playing both games without its best receiver (Gronk) and one of the games without its second best receiver (Amendola) and its most likely candidate to take over the 2012 production from Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez (Vereen). All three of them will be back when the important games start.

Let’s just put the NFL season into context right now: The 2012 Baltimore Ravens lost in week 2 to Philadelphia (who finished the season 4-12). They struggled to put away the Browns in week 4, they beat the Chiefs (2-14 record) 9-6 in week 5, and beat San Diego (another pathetic team in 2012) in overtime in week 12, only after the miracle of a 4th & 29 conversion. And during those games, they had almost all of their offensive weapons intact. No one gave them a chance as they limped into the playoffs as the #4 seed in the AFC. They got hot, got a little lucky and won the Super Bowl.

Panicking, complaining, attempting suicide…none of those things make sense yet because ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN THIS STRANGE SPORT.

Oh, and your baseball team is putting up one of the most unexpected and memorable regular seasons in the history of the sport. And your hockey team is one of the Stanley Cup favorites as the season gets going in a few weeks.

Relax.

And that’s it from me. Week 3 picks coming on Thursday.

Week 2 Picks Against the Spread

I am the blogging equivalent of Stevan Ridley, David Wilson and Alfred Morris. In 2012 I burst onto the scene as a legitimate weapon (in my case a football prognosticator), and my fans were incredibly high on me going into the 2013 season. Big things were coming. Perhaps picking games correctly in the 75% range.

But it was all lost so quickly. My lack of preparation during the week and inability to execute on game day resulted in my worst week of football picks ever. I ruined my reputation, lost the faith of my fans and crushed my own confidence in the process.

While I might have metaphorically fumbled away my career, those three running backs threatened to literally fumble away theirs.

I think what I’m feeling is empathy towards them. But just like those young men are probably chomping at the bit to have their number called so they can show the world they’re capable of holding onto the friggen football, I too am desperately seeking redemption. Unlike those players, however, I don’t have a Tom Coughlin or Bill Belichick in my life who can stick me in the doghouse. So who knows when we’ll see some of the fumbling trio again (or how much we’ll see them), but like it or not, you’re stuck with me for another 21 weeks.

All I can promise is maximum effort.

Actually I can promise one more thing: I’m not going to overreact to week 1. By all accounts, this was the worst weekend in gambling history for many bettors. The Vegas sports books probably made an entire NFL season worth of profit in one weekend. I refuse to believe I should scrap all my preseason projections just because the opening 16 games almost unanimously finished with the exact opposite result of what I was expecting.

But there are some lessons to be learned from week 1, such as:

  • Just because I think Brandon Weeden might be an average QB eventually doesn’t mean he’s currently an average QB.
  • Just because Ben Roethlisberger was healthy going into the season doesn’t mean I should ignore the quality (and age) of the 52 players around him.
  • If you’ve been worried about Josh Freeman from the start of preseason like I have, maybe give it a week or two before you buy into the Tampa hype and wager 60% of your net worth on them.

I’ve taken my deep breath, thought through where I went wrong last week, and I’m ready to take that handoff and break off an AP-like 78-yard run for my readers.

Here are the week 2 picks:

NY Jets @ New England (-13)

I know I’ll end up getting this wrong, but I’m taking the Jets to cover for so many reasons. The Patriots struggled mightily to put up points on the Bills (two touchdowns, three field goals), and that was with the luxury of getting huge contributions of Shane Vereen and Danny Amendola. They’re both out for this game, Gronk’s still out and Stevan Ridley is one fumble away from being available to the other 31 teams on waivers. And the Jets defense is probably better than the Bills.

Here’s another thing I discovered this week: The Patriots lose a game early in the season almost every year to a divisional opponent or a weak opponent in general. Here’s the list of those losses: Week 2 vs Arizona in ’12, Week 3 @ Buffalo in ’11, Week 2 @ the Jets in ’10, Week 2 @ the Jets in ’09, Week 3 vs Miami in ’08, Week 3 vs Denver in ’06, Week 2 @ Carolina in ’05.

So in seven of the past eight years they’ve lost at least once early, usually to an inferior team. Three of those seven times it’s been at home. I’m not saying the Jets are a lock, but with this recent history of the Pats stumbling early (usually while they’re still figuring things out and seeing what they have in some younger players), and the seemingly endless list of players who are hurt, I just can’t pick the Patriots to win by that much. If this game was in New Jersey, I’d be picking the Jets to win outright. Since it’s at Gillette, I’m taking New England to win 26-20.

San Diego @ Philadelphia (-7.5)

A team that was 4-12 last year is favored by more than a touchdown in week 2 against a team that finished last season at 7-9. That probably doesn’t happen too often, but people are HIGH on this Eagles team. How high? Think about smoking a blunt then immediately taking a gravity bong rip and washing it down with a pot brownie. That high.

My instinct is to say this line is ridiculous (it actually opened at Philly -9, even more ridiculous), but part of me could totally see the Eagles winning big. The teams that are going to slow down the Eagles are the ones who can sustain long offensive drives and give their defense plenty of time to recoup on the sidelines. I don’t see the Chargers being that team. Maybe Philip Rivers is done as an above average quarterback. All I know so far is that I’m unlikely to back the Chargers on the road at any point this season.

I don’t believe in the Eagles as a Super Bowl contender, but I believe that they can handle an inferior AFC team at home quite easily (at least over these final few games before Michael Vick gets injured). Philly wins 31-17.

Cleveland @ Baltimore (-7)

In week 1 the Browns were able to completely shut down the Dolphins’ running game (23 carries for 20 yards total) and WR1 Mike Wallace (who channeled his inner T.O. and managed to ruin a good team win with his selfish bitching afterward). But it was the combination of WR2 Brian Hartline coming up big and Brandon Weeden coming up really small that allowed the Dolphins to get the win. Let’s say the Browns run defense is solid and Ray Rice is a non-factor in this game. And we can definitely make the argument that the Ravens’ current WR2 (whichever unqualified player they decide to stick there) is worse than Hartline so the Browns have a chance to really shut down the Baltimore passing game too. So as usual the pick comes down to Weeden. Maybe if he can turn the ball over just once and the defense performs how I think it could, Cleveland can keep it close and maybe even steal a road win. Right?

Right. Well, sort of. They can keep it close, but they won’t win. The Browns cover but the Ravens win 17-13.

Fun Fact (stolen from ESPN.com’s Power Rankings article): Brandon Weeden was 11-of-28 with two interceptions on throws five yards or fewer downfield. Let that sink in for a minute.

Tennessee @ Houston (-10)

Sigh. Fourth game on the docket, fourth spread that’s large enough to make me feel uncomfortable. I guess what we’re trying to figure out here is how Tennessee stacks up against San Diego. Because if you think the Titans are equal to or better than the Chargers, they shouldn’t have a problem keeping it relatively close against a team that struggled against San Diego on Monday night.

But that’s the type of analysis you’d get from a jackass who only looks at the final score. When I looked further into that Monday night game, I found that Houston actually put up 449 total yards of offense. They held the Chargers to 263 yards. So why the come-from-behind three-point win? The Texans had a lot of drives in the first three quarters that ended weirdly. There was the interception on the first play from scrimmage, a failed 4th & 1 attempt when they could have kicked a field goal, a missed 51-yard field goal and a drive that ended because of halftime. All these things are their own fault, of course, but with a couple breaks they probably win that game by 7-10 points.

In my week 1 preview, I took Pittsburgh over Tennessee and said they’d easily put up points and shut down the one weapon on the Titans, Chris Johnson. I’d like permission to use that same rationale again because this time I really do think the Titans’ opponent has too many offensive weapons and a defense that can limit Johnson. I’m terrified of large spreads all of the sudden, but I do think Houston can win by 10. I’m taking Houston to win and cover, 28-17.

Miami @ Indianapolis (-3)

The scariest thing about that opening weekend Colts-Raiders game if you’re an Indy fan? The Raiders pretty much dominated. They had more 1st downs, more total yards, a significant time of possession advantage and they got to Andrew Luck more successfully than the Colts got to Terrelle Pryor. Why did Oakland lose? Two turnovers (to Indy’s zero) and eight penalties.

What I’m trying to say is the Colts didn’t exactly inspire confidence based on their week 1 play. But hey, the Dolphins weren’t looking like Super Bowl contenders in their win against the Browns either. They received the unexpected gift of Cleveland head-scratchingly letting Brandon Weeden throw the ball 53 times.

I’m taking the Dolphins to cover, but the Colts to pull out the win 24-23. I believe the Colts are good, but they’re not on the same page yet. It’s essentially Chuck Pagano’s first real season of being the head coach. Pep Hamilton is in his first season as offensive coordinator (I spent roughly 17 minutes on Google trying to find out what Pep is short for, because it’s obviously a nickname, right? Couldn’t find a damn thing disproving his legal name being Pep). I’m just not confident in Indy…yet.

Carolina (-3) @ Buffalo

It’s impossible to judge any team after one week, but that’s especially true for the Panthers, who may have been facing the best defense in football in Seattle. It looks like Buffalo will still be missing key defensive backs Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd. So the Panthers go from facing arguably the best defense in the NFL to matching up against a middle-of-the-road AFC defense that’s missing a couple key players. Hmm…is that enough to stop the analysis right here and pick Carolina? Yup, it is. Carolina wins 20-16.

Remember we’re not abandoning our preseason projections. A mediocre NFC team trumps a mediocre AFC team every time.

St. Louis @ Atlanta (-7)

I think Roddy White’s injury is detrimental enough to the Falcons’ chances that I went the extra mile and looked up the latest on him. What I found was unsettling…not about White, but more importantly the rest of his teammates. Just look at this injury report.

Holy crap. Key players on offense and defense banged up already. And obviously the name that jumps out is Julio Jones. Can you imagine this team trying to compete with a hampered White and Jones? Fuck no.

Of course, those guys will still play, even if they’re not 100%. And the Falcons still have an incredible home record in the Matt Ryan era. I won’t pick them to lose outright, but I will pick the Rams to cover. Atlanta sneaks by 27-25.

Fun fact: Wipe the notion of Atlanta dominating at home out of your head. They won seven games at home last year, but only two of those wins came by seven or more points. Not exactly killing it at home.

Washington @ Green Bay (-8)

Can we take the Redskins off the board in all pick ‘em leagues? It just doesn’t seem fair to be forced to make a decision on this team when nobody knows what RGIII will bring to the table. Was that 2nd half against Philly legit? Or was it simply the Eagles taking their foot off the gas after going up 33-7? I’m in the camp that thinks the 2nd half Redskins was closer to the real thing offensively.

Meanwhile, over in Green Bay the Packers are kinda sorta facing a must-win game. They travel to Cincinnati in week 3. What if the Packers are 0-3 after that game? And what if the Bears (hosting Minnesota in week 2, at Pittsburgh in week 3) are 3-0 at that point? Mass panic in Wisconsin, right?

I don’t think the Packers start 0-3. I don’t even think they start 0-2. I’ve got Green Bay winning this game but not covering, 30-25.

Dallas @ Kansas City (-3)

Wow. Week 2 and already we have a matchup that could be a Super Bowl preview.

Joking. Technically every NFC vs AFC game this time of year could be a Championship preview.

As happy as the fans for both of these teams must be after their week 1 performances, the objective analyst knows both wins were a bit of a mirage. The Chiefs were handed the gift of facing Jacksonville, specifically Blaine Gabbert and his 1.2 QBR (seriously, on a scale of 0-100, he put up a solid 1.2 in the quarterback rating department). And the Cowboys actually got six gifts from the Giants on Sunday night, three interceptions and three fumbles.

We also have what should be competing philosophies in this game: You’d expect the Chiefs to go with a ball control, run heavy offense, and the Cowboys should probably spread the field and throw, throw, throw.

I’m falling back on the old NFC trumps AFC when comparing two middle-tier teams. The Cowboys pull off the win, 23-17.

Minnesota @ Chicago (-6)

This Chicago team is probably better than last year’s team, right? Sure, their defense can’t possibly put up the same jaw-dropping turnover and touchdown numbers as the 2012 edition, but their offensive line is better, their coaching is presumably better and their running back is healthy. The Vikings are…worse than last year? The same as last year?

I’m unwilling to overthink this one. Detroit dominated the Vikings last week (even if the score doesn’t look that bad), and I just can’t trust Christian Ponder to even elevate his play to a Sanchezian level. The Bears win this one easily, 27-13.

Warning: Adrian Peterson had 308 total yards in two games against Chicago last year. There’s at least a 2% chance he takes this game over and carries his team to victory, yet again, in spite of Ponder.

Fun Fact: Against Detroit, Christian Ponder was 3-of-6 for 68 yards and two interceptions against at least eight men in the box. So good luck, AP, because eight in the box is your new normal.

New Orleans (-3.5) @ Tampa Bay

Prior to week 1 I had the NFC South beating the snot out of each other with the home team almost always coming out on top. For some reason I strayed from that when I picked the Saints to lose at home to Atlanta last Sunday. I’m skipping over all statistical analysis and reverting to preseason thoughts once again. The Bucs could win this. Just think, if that guy on Tampa (not important enough of a player for me to remember his name or look him up) hadn’t gotten called for questionable unnecessary roughness for his “late” hit on Geno Smith in the closing seconds of the Bucs-Jets game, we’d be talking about the gritty road win that Tampa got up in New Jersey. And the Bucs would probably be a one-point underdog at worst against the Saints.

I’m going with the Saints to win but not cover, 30-28.

Detroit (-2) @ Arizona

I wish I was a real football analyst. Or I wish I at least had access to one. I’d just like to know if Patrick Peterson is actually one of the best cornerbacks in the league. I feel like we’ve heard that he is, but no one ever talks about him anymore. I’d like someone to tell me if Peterson has a chance to minimize Calvin Johnson in this game. If so, I could see the Cardinals keeping it close.

Since I don’t have that info, I’m just going with what I saw last weekend and gut instinct. I saw the Lions absolutely pummel the Vikings. I swear Detroit put the ball in the end zone 12 times, even if they only got credit for four touchdowns (there was a Calvin Johnson catch that was called back, the defensive TD that was wiped away because of Ndamukong Suh, a dive over the pile by one of their RBs where the ball popped up about 30 feet into the air).

But you know what, I just selected this game to be my Aaron Memorial Pick of the week. As a refresher, this is the pick where I get to a logical conclusion of who should win and then make the exact opposite prediction at the last moment. I think Detroit could go into Arizona and do some damage, so I’m going with Arizona to win and cover, 26-24.

Jacksonville @ Oakland (-6)

Oakland should not be favored against anyone by six points.

Chad Henne, who is starting this week for the Jaguars, is better than Blaine Gabbert.

Maurice Jones-Drew is far better than the running backs on the Colts who just so happened to average about 5 yards per carry against Oakland last week.

There is now tape of Terrelle Pryor for coaches to study.

Jacksonville covers but loses the game. The Raiders take it 15-12, no touchdowns scored.

Denver (-4.5) @ NY Giants

This game would be a must-see if both teams just completely abandoned the running game in favor of each quarterback throwing the ball 60 times. But you know that jerk Tom Coughlin won’t do it. Even though his running backs did everything in their power to get running plays eliminated from the Giants’ playbook in week 1, Coughlin will try to do the strategic “run the ball to kill clock and keep Peyton off the field” move.

C’mon, Tom. Just let the “football on your phone” dorks throw the damn thing.

I’m picking the Giants to cover (though they’ll ultimately lose 34-30) with my only hope being a furious late-game rally that falls just short when they decide to finally utilize their three stud WRs, which is all we want out of them the rest of the year.

San Francisco @ Seattle (-3)

Part of me thinks the 49ers will go 16-0 this year. But see, that’s week 1 overreaction Ross writing that absurdity. After all, no team comprised of mere mortals could ever go 16-0.

Preseason I thought these two teams were mirror images of each other and the home team wold prevail in their two head-to-head matchups.

The thing that scares me about that is Colin Kaepernick. What if he is a huge step above Russell Wilson, RGIII and Andrew Luck? That’s a huge advantage if all other things are equal. But I’m giving the Seahawks a chance before I crown the 9ers in the NFC. Seattle wins and covers 27-23.

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati (-7)

By picking Cincinnati to cover, I’m not just reacting to week 1. I always thought the Bengals would win all of their home AFC North games, and a touchdown really isn’t that much to win by. But week 1 is certainly reinforcing my pick because how in the hell is the Steelers offensive line supposed to block one of the best pass-rushing teams in the NFL? And the dirty little secret with Pittsburgh is that they no longer have any Pro Bowl caliber players on offense. How do you stay competitive with a team like that?

I’m not ready to say Pittsburgh will be in the running for the #1 draft pick in 2014, but they might be closer to that level than a playoff level.

Wait, is it bad that I’m totally glossing over Andy Dalton? I still don’t think he’s that good, but with A.J. Green making plays and their defense potentially being one of the best in the league, does it matter?

I say no. Cincinnati handles this game easily 31-21.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 2 I’m taking:

  • 6 Favorites & 10 Underdogs
  • Of those 10 Underdogs, I’m taking 3 Home Dogs and 7 Road Dogs

Still feels like too many underdogs, especially the ones on the road. Oh well, things can’t get worse than last week, right?

Season record: 2-13-1

Enjoy week 2.